Kerala polls: Young and senior contestants turn to social media for campaign

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Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 25: With poll heat gripping Kerala where Assembly election slated for May 16, social media has emerged as a favourite campaign tool among contestants, irrespective of party and age barriers.

A large number of candidates, ranging from nonagenarian marxist leader V S Achuthanandan to youngest MLA in the present UDF government, K S Sabarinathan, are active in social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and use it to express their views, attack rivals and connect with voters.

[Special Coverage: Assembly Elections 2016]

Kerala

Though he is just one-week-old in social media, it came in handy for Achuthanandan yesterday when he first attacked media personnel for misquoting him and later withdrew his remarks through a Facebook post.

The former chief minister had been quoted in an English daily yesterday as stating that "People want me to become chief minister. But everything has to be decided by party leadership and the LDF."

Those who launched personal websites, with details of their achievements and poll promises, are also not less. Leaders of major parties, including Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, CPI(M) politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, BJP state President Kummanom Rajasekharan and KPCC Chief V M Sudheeran have intensified their presence in social media in the wake of assembly polls.

Tech-savvy Chandy, who created Facebook account in April 2010, was one of the top leaders who realised the potential and reach of social media much early. The 10-time MLA and two-time Chief Minister has been systematically updating his Facebook and Twitter for quite some time.

Not just articles and pictures of his constituency visits, tours and other significant programmes, the 72-year-old leader also updates major cabinet decisions and government schemes and policies in micro-blogging sites.

Over nine lakh people have registered their likes in the official Facebook page of Chandy, who seeks his 11th stint to the Assembly from his home constituency Puthuppally this time.

Chandy also launched a personal site recently as he could not upload details of the development schemes on his official website because of the model code of conduct as part of the May 16 elections.

Besides government programmes, the bilingual website also carries videos and photos of various events attended by the Chief Minister and articles by and about him.

Ramesh Chennithala and V M Sudheeran, who opened their Facebook accounts in March 2011 and February 2014 respectively, are also active in the world of social media.

Senior leaders of left parties, who had once opposed computerisation, were "very slow" to make their presence felt in the social media. Though 93-year-old Achuthanandan took baby steps into the social media only seven days ago, the number of people who 'liked' his Facebook page have crossed over one lakh.

The former Chief Minister, popularly called VS by his admirers, opened accounts in Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus and launched a website to connect with his voters on April 17.

The website details the personal and political life of the leader and the struggles he has carried out in and outside the state Assembly. Each of his posts and pictures are an "instant" hit.

His admirers share his photos and posts, within no time he updates. Achuthanandan is contesting from Malampuzha constituency in Palakkad district.

The entry of the veteran marxist leader into the social media has triggered a war of words between Chandy and Achuthanandan in Facebook.

Congratulating the veteran for his social media entry in a sarcastic way, Chandy, in a Facebook post, said VS and his party had once named computer as a devil which would ruin job opportunities of youngsters and he was happy to know that they had "embraced" social media finally.

Achuthanandan did not wait long to give a sharp retort to the Chief Minister, that also through Facebook. In addition to Achuthanandan, CPI(M) politburo member Pinaryi Vijayan, who opened Facebook account in December 2013, is also active online.

Besides the senior leaders, almost all young leaders and MLAs of major parties are members of one or the other micro blogging site.

PTI

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