When Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav said that small parties were not in a position to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the digital arena in the Uttar Pradesh elections, and even requested the Election Commission (EC) to provide an equal field for other parties, he was downplaying his party’s grand digital plans, which includes use of WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram live.
During the previous elections, the SP had set up a ‘Samajwadi Digital Force’ (SDF), which connected crores of voters through WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms. In every district, the SDF gives charge to two volunteers to add people to WhatsApp groups. As the groups have a limit of 256 members as of now, the volunteers are asked to make various groups to accommodate as manu members as they can.
According to sources, the party has once again activated the SDF, which they will mainly use to send out speeches of party leaders, publicity material and short videos and images of the campaign. These SDF groups will also be used to amplify the message of SP chief and other leaders by providing live links of various events and press conferences. The party will focus on text images over short videos, keeping in mind the poor net connectivity in rural areas of the state.
Also, the social media accounts of Yadav and other party leaders, who have a good number of followers, will be used to amplify the election campaigning. Sources also revealed that the party will also be seeking to engage local YouTubers in various districts.
Following the latest guidelines by Election Commission, the party also plans to send a five-member team for door-to-door campaigning. Interestingly, these campaigns will also be broadcast live on various social media platforms namely Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube. The party also plans to take help of vehicles with LED screen to help in campaigning.
Speaking to News18 on the digital preparedness, SP spokesperson Abdul Hafiz Gandhi said, “Samajwadi Party started its public outreach programmes a while ago. We organised training camps in dozens of Assembly constituencies, where we trained our party workers on how to establish a connect with people. The party also emphasized on strengthening its booth committees. Our district and block units were actively involved in voter registration exercise. Yadav participated in Kisan Mahapanchayats organized by Samajwadi Party. Recently he travelled the length and breadth of Uttar Pradesh through Vijay Rath Yatras.”
“As far as digital or virtual campaigning is concerned, we are fully prepared to face the challenge posed by Covid restrictions. We will abide by the model code of conduct and will use information technology tools to the fullest. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram live will be used to reach voters. Yadav has an excellent following on different social media platforms. The party will hold virtual meetings through all available digital platforms. We will also ask our workers and candidates at assembly and booth level to do live sessions on Facebook etc. The party will also try to tap the local YouTube channels to increase our reach,” said Gandhi.
Earlier on Saturday, hours before the press conference of Election Commission of India regarding elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh, Yadav appealed to the poll body to keep an eye on ‘hate speech’ by BJP leaders. The SP chief had also said that he would demand funds from the EC for political parties to ensure better digital infrastructure amid increasing Covid-19 cases, and the body possibly mandating virtual rallies.
“The BJP has had a digital infrastructure for a long time, unlike other political parties. We will request the Election Commission to strengthen the digital platforms of other parties so that they can come in a position to compete with the BJP. In case there is a need for digital rallies, we need to ensure that other parties also have good digital infrastructure,” said Akhilesh Yadav.
Expressing confidence on the digital preparedness of the party, SP MLC and spokesperson Sunil Singh Sajan said the SP was fully prepared to take on the BJP as the Samajwadi Party had strengthened its workforce at the booth level. Speaking to News18 on the issue, Sunil Singh Sajan said, “The Samajwadi Party is fully prepared to kick out the BJP from Uttar Pradesh. Our booth workers are fully equipped digitally and active on various social media platforms. These booth level workers will be taking the message of the party and our leaders to the public, even the major points of our manifesto will be propagated by these booth level workers.”
“These booth level workers will be reaching out to people door-to-door in a group of five, as permitted by the Election Commission. The entire exercise is already being executed, our people are talking about the wrongdoings of the BJP government be it taking away the reservation, unemployment, inflation, law and order, etc. People in villages are angry with the BJP and they have made up their mind to elect the SP. Farmers, Dalits and others are angry against the BJP government,” added Sunil Singh Sajan who released a 15-second video clip saying ‘10 March UP -Recharge’, claiming the SP will emerge victorious on counting day.