With just a month to go for voting day in Gautam Budh Nagar and the district still reporting the highest daily surge in Covid-19 cases in all of Uttar Pradesh, political parties are heavily relying on social media to reach out to the masses with their digital campaigns. In light of the rising Covid-19 cases, the Election Commission has banned all kinds of physical meetings till January 15.

Political parties are, therefore, strengthening their IT infrastructure to hold virtual rallies as well as digital public meetings on social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

“We are utilising each and every digital tool available to talk about development issues and connect with voters. Moreover, since the pandemic, social media has played a pivotal role in helping candidates connect with their voters and we have created a deep social media strategy that reaches down to the booth level and have volunteers specialising in IT and social media,” said BJP Noida spokesperson Tanmay Shankar, adding that the IT cell of the BJP in Noida comprises over 40 volunteers.

Party representatives said there is a high percentage of young voters in Noida, which means that they are more active on social media. A Congress spokesperson said party workers in the constituency are connected to voters through WhatsApp groups.

“Through these groups, we help out voters in distress and also establish close contact with them. Since the pandemic, residents rely heavily on social media to make their issues heard and we lend them a ear,” said Pawan Sharma, Noida Congress spokesperson. He added that the Congress does not have a local IT Cell at the district level as of now.

Raghvendra Dubey, a party worker from Samajwadi Party, said, “We had not anticipated that Covid cases will see a sharp increase right before the elections and, hence, a number of our strategies that included physical public meetings had to be cancelled. However, we have been carrying out digital campaigns through social media and public meetings are being organised virtually.”

Meanwhile, in order to keep track of political activity on the internet, the district election officer and Gautam Budh Nagar district magistrate Suhas LY said his team has strengthened their media certification and monitoring committee (MCMC) with a separate team for social media tracking.

“This time, elections are very different because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Parties are routing their campaigns through digital means and hence we are also strengthening our teams to monitor the digital space. While the MCMC already has separate teams to monitor electronic, print and new media, this time we may increase the number of persons on the social media team as digital campaigns are set to increase in the coming days,” said Suhas.

He further said, “On the social media team, we have carefully selected officials who are tech-savvy.”

Avinash Tripathi, officer on special duty, Noida authority, who is the head of the Gautam Buddh Nagar district level MCMC committee, said currently the social media monitoring team has five government employees on deputation.

“Once all candidate names are declared, we will be on our toes to track their social media activity. We will also keep an eye on their social media tags as it is possible that the candidate does not violate the model code of conduct but a worker might, by tagging the candidate. In case of a violation, we will inform the DEO who will then inform the state election commission to take action. Scrutiny will also be on WhatsApp groups and forwarded messages,” he said.

He added that monitoring expenditure done by parties on social media will be hard to quantify.

“While it is easy to spot paid articles or news pieces in print and on electronic media, it will be hard to quantify how much political parties are spending on social media management firms or graphic designers to carry out their digital campaigns. However, we will investigate if we get any tip-off about violations,” said Tripathi, adding that soon a helpline number will be made available to the public where any poll violation on social media or other media channels can be reported.


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