TRINAMOOL MASTER OF THE INTERNET UNIVERSE, LEFT ADAPTS SLOWLY
The Left, which has been rather slow in adopting new tools, is getting a foot in the social media door, aping what has been happening on the other side of the political isle in Bengal.
“Achha balun to… Congress joter darker chilo ki? Je tuku chilo..tao sekh kare dilen “(Do you really think that there was a need for an alliance with Congress? Whatever little bit we had as Leftists, you destroyed that too), posted a Facebook user during the live chat conducted by CPM’s Bengal secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra. It is a topics which Mishra, leader of the Opposition, is believed to be unhappy about, but in the realm of social media, such questions are bound to crop up.
In another Facebook p o s t , Cha nd i d a s Majhi , aka Chandidas Baul, from Birbhum says, “We were very poor, but now we can earn our livelihood by using our talent. Earlier, there was no scope for us. Now, we the Baul (folk music) artists get a monthly allowance from the state government and get a chance to perform in government programmes. We are smiling now. Bengal is smiling.” This is not part of a live Facebook chat. This is a short film that narrates the story of Majhi, a septuagenarian folk artist. It is among the 21 short films produced by the Trinamool Cong ress to promote its schemes. The f i l ms were posted to its official website, Twitter handle of the party and its Facebook page.
In the 2014 General election, the social media strategies of the main political parties was routine, predictable and cautious. This polls season, they look more innovative in spreading the message.
T he r u l i n g T r i n a mool Congress appears to be on top of the game in the state. Party leader Mamata Banerjee has a full-fledged cyber army. The party has been releasing short films of 5-15 minutes length every day, documenting people’s success stories which they attribute to government schemes. These are anchored or presented by Tollywood actors. A new hash tag, created by the party for the short film is -- #RealBengal. And with every other post, the party is using #AITCWinning.
Trinamool Congress is also the first party in the state that has experimented with live chat on Facebook. After the Narada sting operation and the f lyover collapse, speaking to the electorate through a live chat was not at all an easy task for Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee. ‘Didi’, who in 2012 had stormed out from a live talk show organised by a national channel when asked a not-so-happy question, maintained her cool and let pass all controversial questions during the live chat. This is not surprising as she has much at stake. She is now aiming for a second stint in Bengal and finds herself in a challenging situation with new political equations emerging.
The Communist party, which has so far shunned social forums as being “bourgeoisie” tools, is now rethinking its Internet stance, at least when it comes to state elections. The Left has been pretty active in recent times through Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp groups and other messenger services. The party followed Banerjee’s footsteps in some cases too. For instance, the Left Front’s chief ministerial candidate, Surjya Kanta Mishra, participated in a FB live chat.
The Communists are sending small clips to its grassroots workers and supporters for circulation. The clips depict the alleged ‘torturous rule’ of Trinamool Congress. One such clip shows gory images of murdered CPM cadres with numbers flashing on the screen —48,567 people evicted, 171 murders—and a voiceover that says, “TMC is another name of terror and violence”.
For the CPM, their struggle to survive is forcing them to catch up with the trend. The party is in touch with its grassroots cadres through WhatsApp. “We have formed district and zonal WhatsApp groups. This is an easy method to reach people,” said a leader working in Junglemahal.
In other changes, some senior CPM comrades can be seen moving around with Apple devices, generally considered as symbols of affluence. When a top party leader was asked about the two phones he was carrying, he said the iPhone was given by the party. The same response came from another party MP who was using an iPhone and an Apple watch.
According to a party worker, the CPM has given some Apple devices to some senior comrades. The use an iPhone is being questioned as it is seen as a sign of consumerism injected by Communist’s arch rival America. For the people of Bengal, the sight of dhoti-kurta-clad comrades using iPhones is, of course, an unusual one. CPM leader Mohammad Salim, however, explained, “I do not have an Apple device. I am talking over a Samsung mobile. Some of our comrades who are into good profession use Apple devices. But it is their choice, not the party’s.”
Describing the evolution, CPM p a r l i a me n t a r i a n Mohammad Salim told ET, “Communists have always encouraged the new media, but the issue was affordability; we did not have the luxury to waste resources. But, this time, we have developed our own cyber team. The young cadres were trained at districtand state-level workshops. Thousands of these young and innovative minds are working to strengthen the cyber campaign. Like other parties, we did not hire any agency. Earlier, it was a class issue, and now it is a mass issue. We are using the cost-effective mobilebased applications to reach the electorate directly.”
On the short films and TMC’s social media campaigns, he said, “There should be content for campaign. We have a political content. But the ruling party has huge cash in hand and people with deep pockets. They have many rich film producers, actors, ad-makers in their party fold. So, they are spending.”
Not to be left behind, the BJP too has set up a media war room. It has also brought vehicles with audio and video facilities running to remote villages with clips of development projects and schemes in BJP-run states, speeches of senior leaders, and so on. They call it ‘Digital rath’. And the party has got 70 such digital ‘raths’ in Bengal travelling to 294 constituencies.
“The world is moving at a speed. While main stream media is important, social media too plays a significant role. Unfortunately, Bengal never saw all these because of the dogma of the Left Front. The BJP and Modi ji always believed in modern methods. Hence, what you see today is the result of BJP’s efforts in social media campaign in 2014 election. We were leading then and other parties were trying to catch up,” said Sisir Bajoria, a BJP spokesperson. PARTY Name of Leaders Hash tags used by the parties Number of Followers party supremo and Bengal chief minister #AITCWinning #RealBengal General secretary #OnwardsInBengal , #PeoplesPower , #AlternativeBengal MP MP in BJP National secretary in charge of Bengal #BhaagMamtaBhaag #BJP4Bengal #Actof Fraud #TMCSetuGate
actor presdent of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee and MP #INC4Bengal