DEHRADUN: Uttarakhand finds itself in a bind over how to go about the polls on February 14. On the one hand is the continuing and rapid rise in Covid cases and, on the other, the accompanying restrictions. All stakeholders — political parties, leaders, the ECI — are ramping up their social media presence. The three principal contenders — the Congress, BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party — as well as prominent leaders and aspiring candidates have their social media teams and strategists.
BJP seems to be ahead of its rivals in terms of social media presence. Its Uttarakhand Facebook page has 2.57 lakh followers. AAP’s has 2.28 lakh and Congress’s 82,000. On Twitter also, BJP’s Uttarakhand handle has 1.17 lakh followers, while Congress’s has 66,000 and AAP’s 28,000.
This difference is evident when it comes to individuals also. CM Pushkar Singh Dhami has 21.9 lakh followers on Facebook and 1.17 lakh on Twitter. In comparison, Congress leader Harish Rawat has 13.45 lakh followers on Facebook and 3.82 lakh on Twitter. AAP’s CM candidate Ajay Kothiyal has 94,000 followers on Facebook and 23,100 on Twitter.
Ashubodh Deori, who heads AAP’s social media cell in Uttarakhand, said his team had been working for over a year. Currently, the party has WhatsApp in-charges at all 11,647 booths with social media in-charges in all 70 seats and 13 districts.
Shekhar Verma, who heads the BJP’s social media team, said the party has WhatsApp groups at booth, constituency and division levels. “Apart from these, we have a core team and a research team to provide us with inputs. We reach out to those who share our party’s ideology. Our leaders stay in touch with us on ground, offline. We work to amplify the agenda set by the party and reach out to people to explain it,” says Verma.
The EC has already formed a social media cell to monitor parties’ campaigns. “We have three key tasks: monitor content and online expenditure, and spread awareness about voting and electoral processes,” says Nitin Upadhyay, nodal officer for social media cell.
Experts say the BJP and AAP are the main competitors in the virtual world. “The BJP has infinite resources, but AAP is giving a tough fight. The Congress is not doing badly, but they need to hone their work,” said a poll campaign strategist.