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K'taka poll: How Congress, BJP are battling it out online

April 26, 2018 13:06 IST

While the Congress has found success in scoring over the BJP on Twitter and Facebook, it has failed to match the Sangh Parivar’s finesse at utilizing WhatsApp as its primary medium to send its message across to the Karnataka electorate, reports Archis Mohan. 

 

Image used for representational purposes. Photograph: Nand Kumar/PTI Photo.

The battle for the Karnataka assembly is being fought as much in the cities and villages of the state, as on social media.

While Janata Dal-Secular has struggled to make its presence felt in the virtual world, self-goals have marred the efforts of the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party.

 

The BJP and Congress social media chiefs, Amit Malviya and Divya Spandana, are currently stationed in Bengaluru and trying to build a narrative in favour of their respective parties.

There have been repeated bloopers in the BJP campaign, including when party chief Amit Shah described the BS Yeddyurappa-led BJP government as the most corrupt Karnataka has ever seen, when what he had meant to say was that Siddaramaiah-led Congress government has been the most corrupt.

Some of the Congress social media messages, particularly when it ridiculed the PM for his “hugoplomacy” during the visit of the Israeli PM, have been criticised, and not just by the BJP, but within the party as well.

If the Congress has found success in scoring over the BJP on Twitter and Facebook, it has failed to match the Sangh Parivar’s finesse at utilising WhatsApp as its primary medium to send its message across to the Karnataka electorate.

The BJP and Sangh Parivar have honed their WhatsApp outreach in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat assembly polls, and have made the medium an effective campaign tool at the polling booth level.

To Congress social media team’s pleasant surprise, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has emerged an unlikely Twitter star.

The BJP leaders haven’t matched up to Siddaramaiah’s witty repartees on Twitter.

The Congress has also found support from activist groups, including ‘Karnataka for employment’, whose members have gone about setting up freshly fried ‘pakoda’ stalls in urban areas to highlight the Modi government’s “failure” to deliver upon its promise of creating 20 million jobs a year, as also ridicule Modi’s comment that frying ‘pakodas’ was gainful employment.

The campaign, or so the group claims, has struck a chord among the urban youth, and videos and pictures shared on social media have helped in disseminating the message across the state.

The Congress has made jobs a central theme of its campaign.

The BJP has taken to galvanize its support base on the streets, either by organising small marches or having its supporters fly the BJP flag outside their houses.

“In Karnataka, the Congress government led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah created 1.5 million jobs, while the Modi government has failed to deliver on its promise of 20 million jobs a year. The BJP’s policy is beating drums and staying mum,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

Given Bengaluru’s reputation as the IT hub, the Congress on Wednesday said the Modi government has failed to protect interests of Indians working in the United States.

It said 750,000 Indians living in the US on H1B visas will be deported if the new rules announced by the Trump administration come into effect.

“These are youths from Bengaluru and Karnataka. The Modi government has failed to protect their jobs,” Surjewala said.

The Congress social media campaign has also taken to highlight BJP fielding “tainted” people as party candidates, including the “mining mafia of Bellary brothers”.

As part of its ‘Namma Mane BJP Mane’ (our house is BJP house) campaign, BJP general secretary in-charge of Karnataka P Muralidhar Rao said 1.1 million houses flew BJP flags atop their homes on Wednesday.

The party has regularly posted videos and pictures of well-attended marches of party supporters, to tell the electorate that they should look at the party's strength on the ground, and not social media.

Mocking at the Karnataka BJP unit, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has called Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath "North Indian imports" in the May 12 election campaign and said it had no leaders in the state.

With the PM slated to address 15 to 20 public rallies from May 1, and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath to address two dozen rallies, the Congress on Wednesday attempted to further discredit Yeddyurappa as a credible challenger to Siddaramaiah.

It has learnt from the experiences of Delhi, Bihar and Punjab elections, where strong local leaders neutralised Modi’s impact.

Siddaramaiah said BJP's chief ministerial candidate Yeddyurappa had been reduced to a "dummy."

He tweeted: “Karnataka BJP by waiting for North Indian imports like PM Modi, UP CM Adityanath is admitting they have no leaders in the state. They have reduced their CM face @BSYBJP to a dummy."

He said the prime minister may come and go, but in Karnataka it is a battle between him and Yeddyurappa, and the BJP knows who is winning in the May 12 assembly polls.

The BJP said Siddaramaiah’s attempt to divide north and south India is "disgusting" and the party understands the CM’s anxiety of being "rejected" by his constituents.

Alluding to Sonia Gandhi, the BJP asked Siddaramaiah what he had to say about occupants of 10, Janpath, when he is calling Modi and Adityanath north Indian imports.

Archis Mohan
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