Now a virtual campaign in UP; BJP, Congress have a trained team, SP has confidence in its willpower

Although all the political parties have been busy planning virtual campaigns and social media campaigns, but will it have any concrete impact on people's opinion?

Now a virtual campaign in UP; BJP, Congress have a trained team, SP has confidence in its willpower

Aas Mohd Kaif

The first virtual rally was launched from Samajwadi Party's office at Gautam Palli on Wednesday. While addressing this rally, Samajwadi Party's senior leader Ambika Chaudhary, exposing the failures of the Bharatiya Janata Party government of the state, put Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the dock.

Before the rally, all the Samajwadi Party workers were instructed to share the link of the video of their leader with their friends and relatives through online resources. The Samajwadi Party received a good response for this rally. The party workers put their best efforts to share the link as much as possible and to make it successful.

It was a good day for the Samajwadi Party, which is considered to be less trained than the BJP and the Congress, in the election campaign that has gone virtual amidst all the restrictions on the crowd due to surge in COVID-19 cases. In fact, it was a trial which was done to see the response before Akhilesh Yadav's virtual rally.

Samajwadi Party Digital Media Coordinator Manish Jagan Aggarwal told us that BJP may have a big IT team but their will power is not bigger than that of Samajwadi Party leaders. "Our leader Akhilesh Yadav is technically savvy, he is proficient in this. The BJP is projecting itself stronger on this platform because they have no shortage of money and resources. They can influence social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc. They have close contact with the owners of the mobile company. But they cannot change the heart of the people of Uttar Pradesh, which is plagued by the arbitrariness of this government. The success of today's virtual rally has proved it," he said.

Campaigning has taken a different shape altogether in Uttar Pradesh's virtual election campaign. The Congress party seems to be most comfortable in the state regarding the digital election campaign.

Congress's State Social Media Coordinator Manoj Singh says that Congress is a national party and keeps fighting elections. "We were prepared both mentally and on the ground for the digital election. Our leader Priyanka Gandhi was aware of this and for this she organised a workshop titled 'Prashikshan se parakram ki or'. In this, 2 lakh volunteers were trained. A highly trained team was assigned this job. After this, various numbers were also collected from our 'Ladki Hoon Lad Sakti Hoon' campaign. Now we are speaking through 70 thousand WhatsApp groups and 2 crore phone numbers. We are directly connected with them. Besides this, our leaders are holding virtual dialogue," he claimed.

Manoj Singh shares that they have a big social media team. Of these, there are 17,000 trained workers. They have 15,00 office-bearers. All of them have been trained for social media. "In the last five years, the biggest advantage of fighting directly for the people has been that people have now joined us on social media", he said.

Rafat Fatima, who was a trainer in Barabanki during this time said that they worked on the skills of using social media and recognising the right information. Along with the training, they used to hold discussion on the vision of the Congress and that of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. They used to discuss about how to better use the digital medium to promulgate that vision among people.

The BJP also appears to be quite confident in this phase of virtual rallies. The BJP social media strategist in Lucknow, Rajesh Sharma said that the BJP has IT coordinators in all the districts of the state. The party is planning more than 100 virtual rallies. For this a new technology 3D Studio Max technology will be used. In this, leaders sitting separately can be seen together. Apart from this, BJP is going to run a digital chariot. In this, recordings of speeches given in the past by prominent BJP leaders will be played. Home Minister Amit Shah is handling the digital campaign of BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Recently, he visited Lucknow to discuss this. Apart from this, BJP has IT offices in about 50 districts. There is a room reserved for this in the party office of BJP where an IT team sits. All the data of the Vidhan Sabha is available here.

It is true that as far as digital technology is concerned, Samajwadi Party looks weaker than the BJP and Congress. But then, Bahujan Samaj Party and other parties are nowhere to be seen. The digital wing of the BSP is the weakest. BSP's social media executive Gaurav Jatav says that BSP's cadre is the strongest.

"Our party speaks of the downtrodden, backward and deprived and fights for them, at present, we are fighting for bread. The world of smartphones is different. Here, digital technology will not make any difference. The people who vote have already made up their mind about whom to vote. Recently all the studies were done online. But quality education did not reach common man. It is also not that the BSP workers are weak on social media. Our social media is also very strong. Behenji (Mayawati) is very active on it, but the question is will digital campaign make any impact?" Gaurav said.

Meerut's youth Shashank Sharma elaborates upon how political parties are running their digital campaign system with an interesting personal experience. He said, "Three days ago I got a call from BJP candidate of Muzaffarnagar district. I am an engineer and I work in Mansoorpur. A VIP number appeared on my mobile screen. The caller told me that he was calling on behalf of the BJP candidate. He is coming to that area the next day. So, I should go and be present there. I was surprised that I live in Meerut and work in Mansoorpur which is in Khatauli Vidhan Sabha, why the candidate of Meerpur Vidhan Sabha of Muzaffarnagar is calling me!" He further said, "Actually, I was born in Meerpur, but I am a voter from Meerut. But where did they get this data from!"

Another young man Abdul Hannan reveals that he receives any messages related to the BJP government on his WhatsApp group. He has been connected to various WhatsApp groups in which there are some publicising the BJP and a few promoting AIMIM. Samajwadi Party too has some groups and Congress too is active on WhatsApp. But he was amused by the fact that the BJP wanted to influence him too through social media.

Shashank opined that social media won't succeed in influencing the voters in Uttar Pradesh. He again narrates an anecdote. His friend was called by a woman who was singing praises of the ruling BJP. his friend too talked to her and discussed farmers' protest with her at length. Finally the woman disconnected the phone. "People have already made up their mind. It's not going to change through social media now," he concluded.

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