UP elections 2017: What are parties’ war rooms up to?

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Gone are the days of only rallies and public addresses, parties these days are working on one principle, 'If voters do not come to you, then you go to the voter'. Social media has become a powerful tool in campaigning for political parties that are in the electoral fray. In Uttar Pradesh, even parties like Bahujan Samaj Party that have only relied on convention methods of vote seeking have jumped to the digital campaigning bandwagon.

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav's war room setup at Janeshwar Mishra Trust office to handle his election campaign for the upcoming assembly polls, in Lucknow. Photo credit: Nand Kumar/PTI

The Samajwadi party, under the guidance of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, and the Bharatiya Janata party have always had the edge when it comes to being tech-savvy. Probably inspired by the connect they managed to make, Mayawati's BSP too has incorporated many social media campaigns for the upcoming assembly polls. Here is what parties are doing through social media to get voters to notice them.

SP's savvy tech-cell is abuzz with activity

They lost a lot of time thanks to the family feud and then the alliance with Congress that came after much dilly-dallying. The previous assembly election, as well as the 2014 general election, saw the SP's IT cell work its magic and ensuring a connect with the youth. This time around, they hope to create the same magic albeit in a race against time.

The 'war rooms' are equipped and the battle is raging in the digital world. The first masterstroke of the SP's campaign was their kaam bolta hai (work speaks for itself) song, and this is also the crux of their social media campaign. Hashtags, banners, pop-ups are lurking around every site waiting to jump up. The 24/7 war room has separate teams for news monitoring, research and digital work and also includes a call-centre to receive public feedback.

The team is headed by Aashish Yadav, a former BBC staffer . They are careful not to attack opponents but want to focus on the achievements of the SP government and Akhilesh's leadership.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram updates are now pushed through WhatsApp and other bulk messaging apps to boost the reach.

BSP wants a piece of the digital media cake

The party is almost like a debutante to social media campaigning. If SP says kaam bolta hai, BSP says behenji ko aane do (let there be Mayawati's rule). Yes, it is their song campaign to counter the SP. This time around, the BSP too took to social media and what made it more interesting is the fact that the party rolled out its social media campaign on Mayawati's birthday. Personally, never a fan of the social media, Mayawati had to give in to the obvious change in campaigning strategies. You simply can't overlook the power of social media and the BSP figured a little late.

They may not have fancy Facebook pages and separate digital media presence but a team of academics and tech-savvy volunteers are running the digital war room by live streaming and promoting Mayawati's rallies and press conferences. They are new to the business of digital media selling and it is reflective of their social media campaigns. Paresh Mishra, son of BSP leader Satish Mishra leads a team of 400 plus volunteers to keep the BSP's social media presence evident. They want to highlight the 'good governance during Mayawati's rule while drawing parallels with law and order situation during the SP's rule. Wooing Dalits, women and Muslims is also part of their strategy.

BJP rules the digital media space

Akhilesh's team may be tech-savvy but BJP claims to have an edge over the digital space in campaigning. BJP owes a fair share of its victory in the 2014 general elections to massive social media campaigning. Just 100 metres away from the SP's war room, the BJP's tech team boasts a digital library, a research cell, an IT department, a social media cell and a call centre, and individual departments for application, a website and organisation management.

There's a separate WhatsApp cell that runs close to 6,000 groups in Uttar Pradesh. For its social media campaign, the BJP has divided the State into 92 districts and six divisions. Awadh, Kashi, West, Braj, Kanpur and Gorakhpur are approached differently. Every district has set up an Atal IT cell with 15 volunteers each, while a separate team of 11 members works in each of the 403 Assembly constituencies.

In total, around 10,000 volunteers run the BJP's campaign. But unlike the SP, the BJP's campaign is restricted not only to projecting the good work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but is also tilted in favour of attacking opponents, especially the SP.

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