It’s a battle of hashtags this MCD poll season as the three major contenders- BJP, AAP and Congress – fight it out digitally to gain eyeballs and start conversations. The three parties know that social media is where the election may be won or lost in case of a close contest.
“Twitter is where we create noise and gain volume. Though Twitter may not be getting me a vote in the war, it is going to create news,” says Ranajit Mukherjee, Delhi Congress’ digital incharge for MCD polls. “In the past 20-25 days, we have started 25 national-level trending hashtags. It’s not easy to run a trend every day. But every day we have had people’s support to run trending hashtags,” says Abhishek Sharma, co-convener of BJP’s IT Cell. AAP says they start three Twitter hashtags daily.
“Each gets us 3-6 million impressions,” says Ankit Lal, AAP’s IT head Congress’ content in-charge and NSUI general secretary Hasiba Amin says they used an AAP hashtag on Sandip Kumar and ration card to change narrative. “We used it to say he was earlier with the AAP. Now, they can’t just wash their hands off of him.” With increasing number of smartphone users and the advent of cheap internet data, parties are also streaming everything from rallies to manifesto release using Facebook Live.
“We use Facebook’s new tool of live streaming extensively because it notifies all followers on the page about the broadcast. So, we try to do as much live reporting as possible,” says Lal. Congress also says they get enormous response for their live videos. “Every day, we run videos of star campaigners like Ajay Maken, Jairam Ramesh, Shashi Tharoor and Salman Khurshid. People seem to like it.”
Behind the BJP, Congress and AAP’s catchy coinages are teams of savvy youngsters working tirelessly to gather coveted traction for party leaders. With an average of 30, the IT teams consist of volunteers from student organisations, interns and others who have taken out form their regular jobs to help out with the party’s social media campaigns. “Most of our team comprises members of NSUI, which has an age limit of 26 years. Those who guide us are 33-34 years old. Our team has a combination of young energy and experience,” says Hasiba Amin, NSUI general secretary and content in charge at Delhi Congress’ IT Cell. BJP and AAP also enlist the services of interns and students as well. The teams meet twice a day, once to strategise and once to review the day’s work. While some members work from their home , others stay at the IT cell of their parties for over 12 hours every day.