Chandrani Banerjee has studied at the Columbia Journalism School, and covered the US elections, 2016. She has also filed an experience report for UN office of Drug and Crime about the Indian migrant workers, and worked with Outlook
Bharatiya Janata Party has decided to tap the social media users with followers 10,000 or above for the coming elections in 2019.
The party believes that if it can work with the avid social media users, the reach would be higher and connect will be direct.
Speaking to Parliamentarian, Media In-charge of BJP, Pratyush Kant, said, “The social media is something that is now everyone is addicted. People who have followers will certainly be followed for a reason. We will utilise the followers to make them aware of our work through them. If they agree to work with us and identify with the ideology, they would love to be part of the campaign. We are trying to identify such people and we have already identified some.”
Bharatiya Janata Party has a huge social media team. They constantly check and update the party handles. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and all social media platforms, have a huge presence of different political parties. The parties utilise these platforms to propagate the ideology of the party and to reach to people on every issue. There is a battery of young professionals of every party that looks and maintains it on regular basis.
BJP has launched a massive ‘Cyber Sena’ drive in Uttar Pradesh. There was recently a training of social media by a Union Ministry, stressing on using the social media as the biggest tool for the upcoming elections. A similar strategy has been adopted for the national level elections.
“We have identified about 1000 such users on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to get them involved in the election process. The plan is to invite them over and utilise their time for our use. They are active on social media platforms and that activity is our gain. We have been planning to organise a meet soon. And the process of identification is constantly going on. And we are hoping to get a good number of army that will help us to reach to every person,” added Kant.
School and college students are constantly active on social media. Office-goers also use social media quite frequently. The reach would be expected to cover a big number.
Speaking about the psychological part, Dr Aroona Bruta said, “Social media is a part of life for everyone now. There is a very little number that is not on social media. So, the response could work wonders for them if utilised properly. The tool is to be used sincerely for political purposes because the reach is higher. And I am sure those planning will keep that in mind.”
While randomly talking to some students, the response was positive for the project. Adira Srinivasan, a Delhi University student, said, “I am not being followed by 10,000 people but now that I am aware of this proposal, I would certainly try to reach the desired number for my profile. I just hope that they select my profile. I would love to associate myself with the upcoming elections.” BJP has decided to exploit the social media and is quietly working on many strategies to string along the youth in the election process. The identification process has had started about three months ago.
BJP is eyeing to cater to the 18-year-old new voters who are hooked to social media all the time. The party is trying to influence the first-time voters with the welfare programs and achievements to convince the first timers that this is the party which will change the future of the country.
“There is no doubt that social media is the most effective tool of the day. The welfare measures that have been taken by the party will be conveyed through this handle to the voters. How they can join to build the nation would be the aim. We would tell them the future-plans and our expectations from them. So, the stringing along is not just for the party but for the nation-building.”
However, this ‘Catch Them Young’ policy is not liked by many. Those who understand the politics well say that this is absolutely brainwashing and not good for the electorate in the long run.
“The age group that they are aiming is very young. They just step into adulthood and encounter many of the new things in life. The excitement is huge and so are the chances of committing mistakes. I would say this is not ‘nation-building’ but brainwashing the young minds. The campaigns should be done online, there is no harm; but not using the young voters to propagate online. Currently, they speak their mind, whether wrong or right, but after this stringing along they will speak a tutored language. Would that be good for any nation? The free young minds should always be free to speak on their own. This is my view,” said Harish Wankhade, Assistant Professor of Political Science in Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU).