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From YouTube to WhatsApp, parties go the 'social' way to campaign in Gujarat

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Ahmedabad, Nov 18: Teams of thousands of workers and volunteers are keeping social media pages of different political parties abuzz like a well-oiled machine to run campaigns and garner support of target voters for the next month's Assembly elections in Gujarat.

If the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) relies on its established network of followers on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, the opposition Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are using popular messaging platform WhatsApp extensively to reach out to voters at the grassroots level.

From YouTube to WhatsApp, parties go the social way to campaign in Gujarat

BJP's social media campaigns are focused on highlighting the achievements of the party-led government in Gujarat during the last two decades. Prime Minister Narendra Modi served as Gujarat CM from 2001 to 2014.

The saffron outfit is also tapping on the emotive issue of Gujarati pride through the newly-launched campaign "Aa Gujarat Me Banavyu Chhe (I have created this Gujarat)."

The Congress, on the other hand, is harking back to the era when it ruled the state, the contributions its governments made for development of the state and how the BJP has done nothing in its 27 years of rule, a party office-bearer told PTI.

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The AAP has created a narrative around the party's numerous "guarantees" announced by its national convener Arvind Kejriwal during his poll campaigns in the state and is relying extensively on WhatsApp to connect with voters, a party functionary said.

Manan Dani, social media co-in-charge of the BJP, said, "We have run five campaigns so far, and we will be running a few more in the coming days. We keep changing our campaigns every week to present something new to the people."

He said the party started the 2022 Gujarat Assembly poll campaign around six months back with the tagline in local language - "20 Varas No Viswas, 20 Varas No Vikas" (trust and development of the last 20 years).

The ruling party has run campaigns like "Modiji Na Suwarn 20 Saal (20 golden years of Modi)", "Vande Bharat", "Aa Gujarat Main Banayu Chhe", "BJP etle Bharoso (BJP means trust)". among others, in the run-up to the election, Dani told PTI.

The Gujarat BJP uses more than 15 applications in its voter outreach drives. The saffron party has over 35 lakh followers on Facebook, 57.8 lakh on Instagram, 1.5 million on Twitter and 45,600 on YouTube.

As against this, the Congress has 7 lakh followers on Facebook, 64.3 lakh on Instagram, 1,64,000 on Twitter and 8,91,000 on YouTube. The AAP has 5.67 lakh followers on Facebook, 1.17 lakh followers on Instagram. While the state AAP does not have a separate YouTube page, it relies on its national YouTube page which has 42.3 lakh followers.

The BJP has a team of more than 20,000 workers and more than 60,000 volunteers running its social media campaigns, Dani said.

Congress Social Media Department chairman Keyur Shah told PTI the party has drawn up a strategy to run a targeted campaign, that is, making pages on social media platforms that are specific to particular Assembly seats and communities, to raise issues that affect people of that particular constituency.

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The party is relying heavily on WhatsApp to run its campaign and target voters at grassroots level, he said.

"We have formed around 50,000 WhatsApp groups at booth and village levels. These include booth-level workers, but also social community-wise groups for different seats. We have groups of Thakor, Patidar, Adivasi communities. We put targeted content on these groups," Shah explained.

The Congress functionary said the opposition party is highlighting "failures" of BJP governments in Gujarat.

"People want to know what the previous Congress governments did for them, and how nothing new was added by the successive BJP governments. "Congress nu kaam bole chhe (works of Congress speak for themselves)" is the central campaign theme for the party.

"The party hired agencies to create content. Apart from party officials, 10,000-12,000 volunteers are working round the clock for the organisation at local levels," Shah said.

The AAP's social media campaigns rely heavily on volunteers consisting of young college students and professionals, said Dr Safin Hasan, social media in-charge of the party in Gujarat.

WhatsApp remains the major focus of the party for social media campaigns, he said.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led outfit has a core team of 25 youngsters to look after its social media campaigns. Apart from this, the AAP has around 20,000 'social media warriors' who are not necessarily full-time party workers but support it on different platforms by helping run campaigns and spread its messages, Hasan said.

"We have created thousands of WhatsApp groups. We are spreading our agenda, party vision, manifesto, guarantees, and activities on the ground using WhatsApp extensively. We have multi-level groups at Assembly constituency and village levels," he said.

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Facebook page of Isudan Gadhvi, the AAP's chief ministerial candidate, is doing better than other parties in Gujarat, Hasan claimed.

"We are a party with very limited resources and therefore we rely heavily on volunteers. We have strengthened volunteers at village level by providing them training on how to use social media platforms," said the AAP functionary.

Voting to elect a new 182-member Gujarat Assembly will be held in two phases - December 1 and 5 - and ballots will be counted on December 8.

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