Why the BJP is winning the war on social media
The high-voltage outbursts of netizens over #Feku (Gujarat Chief minister Narendra Modi) versus #Pappu (Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi) is not the real issue. It's how parties are using social media to get their message across, says BJP cyber cell chief Arvind Gupta.
Circa August 2012: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi does a Google hangout session, first of its kind in India, to engage with young Indians. The response was so unprecedented that initially the Google servers crashed.
A new trend was set where social media led the mainstream media. Many political commentators, senior leaders of the United Progressive Alliance self assured themselves that this was an event mostly attended by overseas Indians. Social media phenomenon was being discounted as an elitist, non populist media which will not have a significant impact on electoral outcomes. Multiple attempts were made to either censor or discredit this new and evolving inclusive media.
Circa December 2012: The Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party wins a landslide third consecutive election. Effective use of social media, Internet and mobile technology where some of the platforms which spread the message of good governance, development and the vision of Narendra Modi for Gujarat. The youth and the neo-middle class which are the early adopters of cyber technologies consumed the message of progress with ease and voted in high numbers for the BJP.
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Image: BJP's Facebook page
'BJP has been a pioneer in digital outreach'
Circa April 2013: The Internet effectiveness in influencing 160-215 Lok Sabha seats is the talk of the town. Most political establishments apart from the BJP have suddenly opened up to this reality and are offering knee jerk reactions to engage with the 15 crore netizens. There are rumoured sums of Rs 100 crore being budgeted by some political parties for outsourcing their social media outreach.
BJP on the other hand has always believed in harnessing technology to connect to its supporters, workers and citizens. It's in the party's DNA. From launching the first political website to having online membership, social media interactions, an internet TV channel, the BJP has been a pioneer in digital outreach. The party has been engaging with its cyber constituents since the last general election in a very strategic and consistent manner.
A majority of these 15 crore netizens (7 crore on Facebook, 2 crore on Twitter) who are aged below 35 and a subset of them are also first time voters, enough to bridge the gap between winning and losing in many Lok Sabha seats. The BJP technology team of dozen professionals effectively uses social media, YouTube, blogs, smartphone applications amongst others to communicate and interact with young Indians. This is participative democracy at its best.
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Image: yuva4india, the Bharatiya Janata Party's Internet TV
'Making noise on social media not a substitute to delivering governance'
Technology is an enabler but volunteers are the game changers. Transparency with easy access to information, policies, vision and a direct communication channel with top leadership of the BJP, has endeared the party supporters to its cause and ideology. With a very large, passionate and self motivated volunteer group, the BJP technology team's task is to provide open access to information which is further propagated and debated by these netizens based upon their views and likings.
The Congress led by its young leaders constantly talks about "listening" to young Indians but continues to ignore the voice of netizens of India. A futile attempt was made by an overzealous group of Congress supporters when Modi was addressing the FICCI Ladies Organisation without understanding that content is king on the internet.
Not only did the attempt failed but back fired on the Congress with bulk of the talk centred on lack of governance, corruption prevalent in the current Congress led regime. The Congress must realise that making noise on social media is not a substitute to delivering governance and presenting a vision for India, which each of the BJP governments and Modi in particular have done very effectively, and it is this that finds resonance on social media.
The author is the national head of the BJP Information Technology Cell and can be reached on twitter @buzzindelhi.
Image: Android Apps on BJP on Google Play