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 social media 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)