At a time when rallies and large gatherings are banned by the Election Commission in view of a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, political parties in Punjab are battling it out on social media platforms as they promote their agendas for people and also counter any negative propaganda by their opponents.
Teams of 'digital warriors' -- video editors, content writers, graphic designers, cartoonists and volunteers -- of these parties, including the ruling Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party, are busy planning social media campaigns through video clips and graphics for the February 20 Punjab assembly polls.
Some of the parties have planned to hold virtual rallies through social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to reach out to people for disseminating their programmes and agendas for the state.
On January 8, the EC banned public rallies, roadshows and corner meetings till January 15 in five poll-bound states, citing the spike in the number of coronavirus cases. On January 15, the poll panel extended its ban on physical rallies and roadshows until January 22.
The SAD is focussing on highlighting the development projects carried out in Punjab during its 10-year regime from 2007 to 2017 and also promising to continue to work for the state's progress if its alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party is voted to power.
"We are highlighting the development work and infrastructure projects carried out by the Akali Dal-led regimes in the state," said the party's IT and social media head Nashattar Gill.
Apart from disseminating the party's poll promises, the digital warriors of the SAD are also putting out posts, video clips with stinging captions and hashtags to target its rival parties.
It came out with the #LiesofKejriwal, #FakeDelhiModel, gurantian da jaal hai, jhootha Kejriwal hai online campaigns, targeting the Aam Aadmi Party over its poll promises, and also the #CongressRuinedPunjab and #ShameonCongress hashtags, hitting out at the ruling party over unemployment, the drug menace, the power shortage and its unfulfilled promises in the last five years.
The SAD social media team has set up 23,000 WhatsApp groups in the state for sharing the party's programmes at village and block levels, Gill told PTI.
The party's cadre, especially youngsters, are assisting in handling the social media campaigns, he said.
The SAD held its first live virtual interaction on Monday with the people of the Kharar assembly segment through its Facebook page and YouTube channel, where its president Sukhbir Singh Badal shared the party's vision for Punjab.
State BJP's IT cell chief Rakesh Goyal said the party has appointed social media heads in all the 117 assembly constituencies of the state to reach out to the voters at the booth level with its programmes and the work carried out by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre.
"We have formed more than 17,000 WhatApp groups," he said.
The saffron party is running the social media campaign for the Punjab polls with hashtags such as #NawaPunjabBhajpaDeNaal and #PunjabWithBJP.
"We are getting a very good response to our social media campaigns," Goyal said.
The BJP has come out with online campaigns such as #KejriwalfailsinDelhi, #KejriwalAgainstPunjab #DhongiKejriwal, #CongressCrisis and #FailCongress as it seeks to target its opponents.
The ruling Congress has a team of around 30-35 digital warriors who are coming out with social media campaigns and also tracking the posts of the rival parties for countering their propaganda.
Punjab Congress's state social media coordinator Samrat Dhingra said the party has set up a war room with a team of graphic designers and content writers in Mohali.
He added that the party is also planning to hold virtual rallies through various social media platforms.
On social media campaigns, Dhingra said the party has launched the #CongressHiAyegi, #LokaanDiSarkar, #PunjabDiChangiSarkar and #HathPunjabDa hashtags for highlighting several decisions of the state government such as the reduction in the electricity tariff and the farm loan waiver.
The EC decided on Monday to hold the single-phase Punjab Assembly polls on February 20, instead of February 14, in view of Guru Ravidas Jayanti.