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Decoding Congress's social media plunge

July 23, 2013 10:23 IST

Decoding Congress's social media plunge

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So Congress has taken the plunge into the world of social networking. Though late in the game the party has realised the need to reach out to an estimated 8 crore people who use online networking, to aggressively counter the BJP campaign against it on corruption and propagate the UPA government’s achievements. Anita Katyal reports.

If the proceedings of the communications workshop organised by the Congress on Monday is any indication, the party believes that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections will be fought through the social media. 

And the Congress obviously does not want to lag behind its main political rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which clearly took the lead in using social media to run a sustained campaign against the United Progressive Alliance government and also to connect with the youth. 

BJP’s campaign committee chief and Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi has been active on social networking website Twitter for several years now and has a huge following.

Other BJP leaders, including Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, also use Twitter while veteran BJP leader L K Advani is an active blogger.

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Decoding Congress's social media plunge

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Having been beaten at this game, the Congress is now trying to make up for lost time as it is trying to increase its presence on the social media.

It made a splash when Modi addressed a session at FICCI with a new twitter handle “Feku”, which immediately starting trending.

On Monday, a special session on social media was organised as part of the two-day workshop for Congress spokespersons from across the country to coach them on how they should communicate the UPA government’s achievements and the party’s position on key issues to the people.

This is the first time that social media has been included in workshops for spokespersons conducted occasionally by the party. 

However, this is the first time that such an exercise is being conducted after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi took personal charge of the party’s communications department and placed it under the charge of his nominee, Ajay Maken.

While encouraging its spokespersons to use social media, the Congress leadership has also realised its perils as comments and tweets by its overenthusiastic leaders has ended up embarrassing the party

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In a message to leaders like Digvijaya Singh and Shakeel Ahmed, whose recent tweets have raked up unnecessary controversies, Rahul made it clear that partymen should not speak out of turn or go beyond the party line.

“Spokespersons and panelists may have their individual views, but as party spokespersons and panelists you have to be within party line. We cannot go beyond party ideology. Those who go beyond will be noticed and action will be taken,” Rahul told the delegates. 

Rahul has also been stung by the feedback he received about the party’s dismal performance in the last Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

Party cadres complained that the Congress prospects were affected by the off-the-cuff remarks made by leaders like Salman Khurshid, Digvijaya Singh, Sriprakash Jaiswal and Beni Prasad Verma on controversial issues like the Batla House encounter and the sub-quota for backward Muslims in the middle of the election.
 
The Congress vice president obviously does not make the same mistakes in the run-up to next year’s crucial general election.  

Nevertheless, the use of social media and latest communication techniques is high on the Congress agenda. 

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Decoding Congress's social media plunge

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While party MP Deepender Hooda conducted the session on how the party can use social media to reach out to people, the party also unveiled its social platform 'Khidki' for internal conversations with the party top brass.” 

Members will be given a login ID to enable them to put up posts and communicate with leaders on key policies. In his session, Hooda underlined that social media can be used as an important platform to connect to the people, as an estimated 8 crore people are said to be using it. 

The party’s communication department has emerged as the centrepiece of Rahul’s election planning. Having been at the receiving end for corruption scams and poor governance, the party has acknowledged that it has been losing the perception war chiefly because it has not been able to effectively communicate its side of the story.

The recent revamp of the party’s media set-up with younger people and Monday’s exercise is all part of a plan to use all forms of media -- print, electronic and social -- to aggressively counter the BJP campaign against it on corruption and propagate the UPA government’s achievements.

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Image: Deepender S Hooda addressing at AICC Communications meet
Photographs: Congress Twitter Page

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The emphasis is being given to the government’s pro-poor schemes like the food security programme and the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme.

However, this could prove to be an uphill task. With its credibility currently at an all-time low, it will need more than spin doctors to convince the people that they should vote for the Congress for the third time.

Moreover, Rahul will have to lead the battle from the front and be more visible. He can no longer afford to hide behind the battery of party spokespersons.

Like Modi, he will have to personally communicate his views and thoughts to the people, especially on social media which is a highly personalised medium.

Or else, he will remain the butt of jokes. 

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