Pivotal Role Of Social Media In Upcoming Panchayat Election

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Kolkata: Political parties in West Bengal will use the social media extensively for the first time to woo rural voters in the panchayat polls slated for later this year, given the rise in the number of smart phone users in the state, leaders of various parties said.

With 70 per cent of the Lok Sabha seats of the state being in its rural areas and the general election due next year, the panchayat polls and its results have assumed greater importance, they said.

The ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP are way ahead of its rivals in terms of presence on the social media and are followed by the CPI(M) and the Congress. The TMC leadership has asked its district leaders to ensure maximum use of social media to reach out to young voters. Its students wing, the Trinamool Chatra Parishad, has engaged its cadres in various colleges of the districts to create awareness about the developmental work of the Mamata Banerjee government.

“Apart from the traditional mode of election campaigning, social media will also be used to reach out to the people as almost 99 per cent of the youths use WhatsApp and Facebook,” a senior TMC leader told PTI. The TMC leadership has also asked its party workers to remain active on social media in order to counter any “misuse of social media to foment trouble in the state”. “The BJP and the RSS are for a long time trying to foment trouble in the state by circulating fake posts and rumours on Facebook and WhatsApp. We are cautious about it,” said another TMC leader.

The state had witnessed incidents of communal violence last year triggered by inflammatory posts on social media. A BJP leader said a dedicated team of the party’s leaders and workers are working 24×7 to ensure that messages, video clips of speeches of its important leaders and the development work by the Narendra Modi government at the Centre are communicated to the people over the social media.

“Apart from going to the people physically, social media will play a vital role in reaching out to masses especially youths,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said. The party plans to run 50 WhatsApp groups in each block of the state so that all the 77,000 booths can be covered by using social media, said another BJP leader. “In many places of the state, the opposition is not being allowed to hold a rally or a press conference. In those places social media will play an important role in reaching out to people,” he said.

With smart phones getting cheaper, many people in the rural areas have access to them and are regular users of WhatsApp and Facebook, he added. The Congress too is trying to woo the youth through the social media – a move party leaders said would help it counter the campaigns by the BJP and the TMC over the Internet. The state unit of the party has recruited social media coordinators for each Assembly segment.

The Congress plans to highlight the “failures” of both the BJP government at the Centre and the Trinamool Congress government in the state on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp as well as its own election manifesto, party sources said. The CPI(M)-led Left Front, which is facing a tough time in the state and is staring at the possibility of losing its opposition status to the BJP, is actively training hundreds of its cadres on proper use of social media platforms.

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