The knives are out in the cyber space as MP shifts into election mode 

Bhopal: Much before the announcement of the dates of MP Vidhan Sabha elections, social media had already turned into an electoral battlefield. The BJP and the Congress – the two key players in the state’s political arena – are in the thick of the battle with their team of social media volunteers. The war begins early in the morning and continues till late in the night on various platforms. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp are overflowing with videos, memes, graphics and short messages put up by the two parties.

DB Post talked to the heads of the State IT cells of both the parties to find out their strategy.

Common goals

Target: 25 per cent netizens: Political parties believe that around 25 per cent voters of Madhya Pradesh can be reached with the help of social media. The ultimate goal of this battle is to lure a large chunk of these voters.

Focus: To reach each and every booth: The BJP claims that they have 100 per cent reach up to the booth level. However, the Congress is working hard to penetrate up to the booth level. As of now, the Congress has appointed booth coordinators in 37,000 of the 64,000 polling booths in the state.

Different plans for different platforms

Twitter: Every second matters: Every party wants to set trends on Twitter. They influence the microblogging site’s algorithm by posting lakhs of tweets at the same time with a common hashtag. BJP utilises the official accounts of ministers as it is easy to influence Twitter with verified accounts. Social media team of the Congress has created catchy hashtags so that common people can also connect with the idea and retweet the messages.

Whatsapp: Key tool in this election: The most important tool to reach the target audience is WhatsApp. Both parties have collected loads of WhatsApp numbers to circulate their messages. The BJP claims it can reach 45 lakh persons within one to two hours. The Congress says it can reach 25-30 lakh people in the same duration. The Congress and the BJP both have direct control over nearly 45,000 WhatsApp groups each to circulate their messages.

‘Decentralised approach’

We have opted for the decentralised approach for creating content. We are focussed on local level issues and gather information with the help of volunteers. They have the freedom to raise local issues in their respective groups. I have worked in Gujarat elections as well and we are following a similar strategy here. We are ready to counter the propaganda of the BJP on social media with correct fact and figures — Abhay Tiwari, Head IT Cell, Madhya Pradesh Congress  

Story of development

As we are already in the government, we have development-related stories to circulate. Apart from this, we also monitor the issues raised by Congress and try to counter the false allegations. We have a strong infrastructure and big base of dedicated volunteers at every booth to make an impact —Shivraj Singh Dabi, Head, BJP IT cell 

Dirty tricks department working overtime

[box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””] Besides the official social media teams, both the parties also have their dirty tricks department, about which none is willing to talk on record. These teams, which, officially, have nothing to do with the parties, produce memes, spoof videos etc which are often slanderous, vulgar and hit below the belt. One video showed chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as Bahubali while another portrayed state Congress chief Kamal Nath as Hulk [/box]

(Story: Manish Chandra Mishra)