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Karnataka poll: Parties making last effort on social media to lure voters

Last Modified Friday, 11 May 2018 (17:06 IST)
Bengaluru: The power of 'social network' strategies of the political  parties are in focus in Karnataka just hours before the all important  voting is cast for the much talked about state assembly elections.
Even  as the scheduled and formal campaigning as allowed under the provisions  of Representation of People's Act has ended, political parties and  their 'handlers' of various social network sites and Whatsapp accounts  on mobiles have gone hyper.There are some who are ridiculing the media  houses and other experts on their predictions too. 
"Opinion  polls are clearly divided on Karnataka. There are some who are boldly  predicting a BJP win. And then there are others who haven't been paid,"  runs a Tweet from one Twitter handle named 'Punster'.
Roshan  Gupta, one of the coordinators for Congress, tweeted a  video message of party chief Rahul Gandhi, who tells the voters that:  "It is a battle of ideologies and hence all should exercise their voting  right judiciously".
For BJP also the social network and Whatsapp messaging have been going on full swing.
According  to a BJP leader in the know of things of strategies on social media,  the party's films on the "failures of the Congress government" in last  five years have gone down very well with the electorate.
In Whatsapp  alone there were over 20,000 active groups for the saffron party and if  BJP insiders are to be believed the campaign could yield "better  outcome" in rural areas than the urban pockets. 
"Apart from the  state social media unit and also BJP's highly organised central social  media unit; most BJP candidates if not all ran the own teams, which will  definitely leave an impact at the ground level," says the BJP source.BJP  IT cell chief Amit Malviya made use of social network to take a pot  shot at Congress chief Mr Gandhi's press conference in Bengaluru on  Thursday. 
"Did any of you notice that not a single question asked to  Rahul Gandhi during his press in Karnataka was in Kannada unlike BJP  President who got many? Strange or staged?," he tweeted.
However,  it needs to be pointed out that in many rural hubs especially in North  Karnataka ? and key political pockets like Raichur, Bellary and Belagavi  ? commoners said that the larger than life size cut outs have done a  vanishing act.
"I am not surprised, but this is a matter of fact  that there is no big cut outs. Even in 2013 assembly polls and 2014 Lok  Sabha polls, some cut outs were seen. Otherwise our region is to be  famous for large cut outs," said Amjad Khan, a sweat shop owner in  Bellary.
Khan and others in the township understand pretty well  that in the new generation age of computers and updated mobile handsets,  the influence of social media and Whatsapp messages are more than the  large cut outs.
But, Babu Nayak, Raichur-based All India Mahila  Empowerment Party (AIMEP) leader argued eloquently: "The traditional  methods of campaigning will remain relevant even today. You cannot win  election using mobile messages and social media alone. But it is true,  the social media has been transformed from being a simple tool. Today,  it is a decisive factor in many ways as people often take things on  their face value".
Obviously the power of mobile handsets cannot  be underestimated. "WhatsApp  messaging has been certainly a big tool to  reach out to voters. There are even booth-level WhatsApp groups both by  Congress and BJP," said Y Srivatsa, a Congress worker in Bengaluru.
In  fact, a printer and supplier of poll materials from Surat - Abhinash  Patel, who was camping in Bengaluru, said: "Unlike past,there have been  drastic cut down in demands for poll materials in print. My business  trip is unsuccessful this year".
The 'power' of social media can  be understood well in the fact that just two days before the voting, on  May 10 (Thursday), a supposed 'fake email' that went vital claimed that  the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) has played its part to  convince Congress government in the state to 'divide' Lingayats from  Hindus by granting the political sensitive community the 'minority'  status.
However, the claim is dismissed outright by the CBCI and  it said the organisation will "never ever indulge in divisive tactics"  as indicated in that letter."The circulation of the letter (fake  as even designation of Cardinal has been wrong) just before the  Karnataka elections is a disgraceful mischievous ploy," a statement from  Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of CBCI said.
But  the damage seemed to have been done. The issue has been flagged by  several BJP sympathisers on social network with one of them writing:  "Congress allegedly joins forces with foreign Christian and Muslim  organisations to divide Hindus".
Also in circulation is a letter  dated July 10, 2017 wherein UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is informed  about a meeting of Global Christian Council and World Islamic  Organisation and it states that in order to win Karnataka polls, the  growth of RSS ought to be stopped and the strategy ought to be drawn to  unite Muslims and Christians.(UNI) 
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