The Bharatiya Janata Party has been the best at utilising social media campaigns for elections in the country. The IT cell is located inside the BJP state office on Pandit Panth Marg. The chamber accommodates 15 senior-level cyber warriors who have been monitoring and leading social media campaigns in various poll bound states.
Assembly elections in BJP led Madhya Pradesh are scheduled to be held in late 2018. The party has already started preparing the ground for the upcoming state elections. Shivraj Singh Dabi is the Social Media and IT Cell head for BJP in Madhya Pradesh. Team TA visited state BJP headquarters and interviewed him on how his cell and party is preparing for the upcoming elections.
1- What has been the idea of party leadership behind setting up of IT cell?
If you will observe then in last 20-25 years the youth of our India has made an advancement due to introduction of various social media platforms and internet services. Today, almost 70-75% of youth is using whatsapp, facebook and other kinds of social media forums. This provided us with the opportunity to put forward our ideology and reach out to masses. Social media provided us with a platform where we are able to display the party activities in an expedited manner. It helped us reaching out to more people and strengthen our reach.
General elections of 2014 was the best example of how social media changed the mindset of the people of India and helped them in looking above the lines of caste and religion. Social media helped Modi put forward his opinions on development even when the entire media was against him.
2- Has use of IT and social media eased up the campaigning process?
Definitely, it has. Earlier, it was difficult for the party leaders and karyakartas to reach out to people due to geographical proximities. Rural areas were having poor infrastructure. Traditional campaigning process through mobile vans and wall posters was used by the party. After internet and social media, the entire process has been digitalized. We are now using number of digital tools like digital posters, GIFs, presentations etc. It has helped us in putting forward our view in an easy and less complicated manner.
3- How does IT cell help in making society aware on various policies of the government?
We disseminate the information on various policies of the government via two methods. Firstly, we present the specifics of any policy through both, graphics and text. We present these policies in various schools and colleges through proper presentations consisting of audio and video clips. Secondly, we act as policy consultants too. We explain the entire process of how a beneficiary of a particular policy can receive the benefits. Our volunteers explain the entire process of that policy and help in claiming the benefits of that particular program.
4- How IT cell connects with the youth of the state?
In various schools and colleges, all the students who believe in the ideology of Sangh and BJP are connected together. All those who believe in the vision of our beloved PM Modi and CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan, but unable to come to mainstream party politics are provided an opportunity through these social media forums to participate, virtually.
We take different sessions in these colleges in a group of 50-100 students per session. We provide them information on various fronts and try to establish a link between the party and the students. Once this link is established, the information flow becomes regular and systematic.
5- Is social media proving to be more powerful than mainstream media?
According to me, both of them have their separate value. If one needs a detailed information he must refer to conventional media. While, if any alert or short and immediate message has to be circulated than obviously, the social media is used.
The time bound nature of both these mediums also creates a difference. The 24×7 availability of the social media gives it an edge over the conventional media. But, again both of them has their independent existence and usage.
6- How is the IT cell preparing for the upcoming state assembly elections in 2018?
The cyber army is getting prepared for the upcoming state assembly elections. This cyber army will consist of young volunteers who will help us in preparing the social media front for our party in the upcoming elections. We are making team at all the three levels: district, mandal and booth. There are 56 Districts, 760 mandals and around 60,000 booths; these three levels will be supported by a team of 5-5 volunteers who will help us in maintaining the social media front for MP BJP. There will be a central and state level monitoring of this entire process. We are creating a robust and dualistic model whereby we are digitally linking the state to booth and booth to state.
7- In present times, social media is extremely vulnerable for misuse and spreading false agenda (like trolls, online hate campaigns). How does IT cell ensure that same does not take place?
Today the law on online freedom of expression and speech has become flexible, especially after the deletion of sec. 66A of the IT Act.
Our party leadership is very strict when it comes to circulation of untrue agendas against the BJP on any kind of forum. Therefore, we counter such agendas with accurate facts and figures. This has helped us enormously in changing the mindset of the people and convincing the observers, which in turn has resulted in high conversion rate of votes.