Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Mar 17:
Rallies, rhetoric, posters and banners – these are the tools politicians fight each other with during elections. But this time, there is another tool that is going to see most of the action: social media.
The computer keyboard has replaced the megaphone as political parties and candidates deliberate on issues, support positions and demolish rival viewpoints with ‘likes’, ‘’comments’ and ‘tweets’ on Facebook and Twitter.
Social media may not yet have penetrated into rural areas, but it is certainly playing an increasingly important role in parties and candidates reaching out to a wider audience.
Every political party is trying to woo the audience – particularly the youth which accounts about 60 per cent of the country – through the social media and is trying to influence them to ensure the victory of its candidates.
While the Congress and the BJP have already opened their IT cells as part of their campaign, the ruling BJD too has jumped on to the social media bandwagon in the recent past. Unlike in the traditional campaign arena however, the BJD is lagging way behind its two rival parties.
The BJP has appointed experts to take up its campaign through social media, emails, blogs and mobile message routes, while the state Congress has a full-fledged social media cell which is spreading the messages of Rahul Gandhi and the activities of Congress in order to influence and woo the voters.
“We have already formed an IT cell and the online campaign using social media has begun. The process will gradually pick up once the candidates are declared,” said Sajjan Sharma, spokesperson of state BJP, who is very much active on Facebook.
“Since people are creating opinion in the two-way communication process, young voters are our main target through the online campaign,” he added.
Online political campaign actually came into vogue during the urban local body polls as all the three political parties launched their websites and opened accounts in various social media sites knowing that urban people are more likely to be active in the new medium.
All parties have used Facebook and blogs to give an additional boost to their campaign through the internet, which is an easy and inexpensive way to reach out to young voters.
However, the Election Commission of India has imposed a hurdle on their campaign as candidates and political parties using the social media to campaign will not just have to include the costs incurred on them in their expenditure records but also need to get prior clearance for political advertisements before using them on such media.
Defining social media as collaborative projects (such as Wikipedia), blogs and micro-blogs (Twitter), content communities (YouTube), social networking sites (Facebook) and the virtual game-world (apps), the EC has, for the first time, decided to monitor online activities of those contesting the next general elections.