KOLKATA: In 2020, Left Front chairman and CPI(M)’s Politburo member Biman Bose does not have a cellphone, a Facebook account, or even a Twitter handle. The handsets of comrades near him are the only way to get in touch with the veteran communist leader. But now, the 80-year-old communist leader is going live on Facebook to counter the oppositions’ aggressive onslaught.
With an eye on the 2021 Assembly elections, all major stakeholders playing on the volatile soil of West Bengal’s politics are preparing for a cyber slugfest by strengthening their social media wings.
The ruling TMC, its principal opposition BJP, the CPI(M), and its possible ally Congress are busy recruiting cyber sainiks not only to showcase their own party’s agendas but also to point out the opposition’s failure in preparation for the next year’s assembly elections
The BJP appears to be the strongest contender in Bengal’s cyberwar as it has created over 40,000 WhatsApp groups to add 60 lakh odd party workers. The CPI(M), on the other hand, has already engaged 70,000 social media volunteers and has a target to reach a total of one lakh within the next two months. Congress has 60,000 workers engaged in its social media wing.
The TMC assigned 15 party leaders on the state-level and 25 odd workers in each district. The ruling party’s activities in the virtual world are being supervised by poll strategist Prashant Kishor and his huge tech-savvy team working in every corner of the state.
"Even in last assembly elections, using social media platforms was our party workers’ individual choice. We were not even very strong on virtual platforms in last year’s general election. But now it has become a responsibility. Now our party letters are asking workers to start WhatsApp groups in area committee and branch committee levels to speed up coordination,’’ said CPI(M) leader.
Both The CPI(M) and Congress leaders in Bengal admitted that no political party can match the strength of BJP’s digital wing because of its machinery and money power. "Instead of highlighting our party activities, countering BJP’s propaganda has become our main job. Recently they circulated a photograph of Sitaram Yechuri’s participation in the tribal festival in Telangana as his visit to a temple," said the leader.
Congress is also gearing up to strengthen its activities in the digital world and social media platforms. "We have volunteers who work in communication and social media cells. The young voters have easy access to digital media and they are keen to know the facts. We are trying to highlight the facts against the BJP’s propaganda and the ruling TMC’s tall claims,’’ said a Congress leader.
A TMC leader said the party’s performance in the digital world and on social media platforms are being looked after by Kishore and his team Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC).
A BJP leader admitted that what the political parties are following the saffron camp’s footprint that were left behind began many years ago.