With the largest democracy in the world going to polls in less than a month’s time, the campaigning parties are trying their best to woo the masses in every possible way. And social media as a channel is no exception.
In this interview, Mr. Narayan Rao, IT Head of BJP Yuva Morcha shares with us on their approach towards social media and how a combination of youth and politics can influence the outcome of the 2014 general elections.
In what ways is social media different from offline mediums for political campaigning?
It is different in multiple ways. It has the potential to reach out to millions within a fraction of a second compared to traditional means of campaigning. It is absolutely free and gives you total control. And most importantly, it is self replicating. If you have the right strategy and maintain the quality of your content, you don’t have to worry much about the impact.
Can social media really influence users to vote?
Absolutely. Discussions on social media are not limited to a virtual environment. Discussions happening on social media are being discussed offline too. Even mainstream media at time picks content from social media. And if we can draft your message in an appropriate manner, which is well supported by facts, it is sure to have an impact on the voter.
A lot of youngsters on social media are indifferent to politics and politicians. How do you plan to make them aware about the power of voting?
We have been running perpetual campaigns to make the social media users on the importance to vote. We are appealing to them to get their voter ID cards and ensure that their names are present on the electoral list so that they don’t face any problem on the day of the vote. We have helped lakhs of youths in getting their voter ID cards by running offline campaigns along with online campaigns.
What steps have you taken to attract the youth to vote for BJP in this general election?
At BJP, we are welcoming youth coming from different social, educational, and professional backgrounds. Many youngsters have approached us to contribute to our mission 2014. They are willing to take full time off from their personal commitments and give time to party activities. Currently, many volunteers are giving us their time at the BJYM research team. These people have been helping us create good quality content and spreading it via social media.
Which social media platforms, in your opinion, are the most effective for political campaigning?
In my opinion, Facebook is the most effective for social media campaigns. Twitter too is useful when your discussion topic is among the top trends.
How do you track the performance of your political campaigning activities on social media?
Tracking is tricky. We keep a watch on the content being shared on specific pages, individuals, and groups. Facebook too provides us with tools to analyse the reach of our content. We keep a note of the number of shares, likes, and comments.
How do you view your opponents (Congress, AAP etc) on social media? In what ways are you different from them?
We believe in positive campaigning. BJP is known for good governance. Our BJP governments are performing significantly better than non-BJP governments. Our target is to highlight BJP’s landmark schemes and how have they benefited the masses.
We need to focus on the fact that the NDA government under Sri Atal Ji’s leadership has been the best government of all the governments India has seen so far. We highlight how Gujarat has contributed to national growth via infrastructure development and visionary policies of Shri Narendra Modi Ji. Shri Modi ji has been able to deliver an able and efficient administration in the past 12 years.
Congress has nothing to show as their achievements in the past 10 years and hence are focusing heavily on negative campaigning. AAP, though aggressive, have a good team of social media activists, but they neither have policies, nor the intention to provide good governance. They only believe in raising questions without providing any alternative models of governance. Their movement has already lost track of what they stand for.
Their movement was anti-corruption, and anti-Congress. However, for political gains, they have made it anti-BJP and anti-Modi. They are resorting to unconstitutional means to remain in the news and to remain relevant. In my opinion, it will not work. People will reject both of them.
It has been observed that a loft of supporters (of all parties) indulge in nasty abuses and trolling thanks to the anonymity provided by social media platforms. How do you view such a situation?
As mentioned above, we believe in positive campaigning and do not encourage any such nasty behavior. Because I believe, it is counter productive if the quality of content is not maintained. We have to maintain discipline.