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E-bandwagon-Bihar parties take fight to ‘virtual media’, following BJP and AAP’s success

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social-media-585481_640Impressed by the tremendous political benefits reaped by BJP and AAP due to high-voltage social media and high-end digital campaigning in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Delhi assembly elections respectively, Bihar parties too are eagerly jumping on to the e-bandwagon.

All the major parties – Janata Dal -United (JD-U), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Hindustani Awam Morcha – are making efforts to make their presence felt on the net for the forthcoming Bihar election. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also expected to shift its well oiled cyber machine to Bihar soon.

From interactive graphical representation of the work done by their parties and making promises on Facebook to sending interactive and informative messages on WhatsApp, they are doing it all to woo voters. “It’s the best way to engage the youth and first time voters. We have set up a ‘war room’ to ensure that we remain ahead of our rivals in digital campaigning,” K.C Tyagi, chief spokesperson of JD-U, told IANS over phone.

“We have seen how Prime Minister Narendra Modi quite effectively used the social media and high-tech campaigning in the 2014 elections to ride to power at the centre,” he added. According to Bihar’s information and technology department, an estimated 5 lakh out of the state’s total population of 110 million use the internet on computers while 20 to 30 million use it on mobile phones.

Tyagi says the 2014 general elections changed the way elections were fought in India. Although the tech-savvy campaign brought rich dividents for the BJP, he says it also raised the overall cost of fighting elections.

Abdul Bari Siddiqui of RJD, who is also leader of the opposition in the Bihar assembly, says that although the reach of social media among Bihar’s population was limited, yet one cannot “deny it’s positive and long-lasting effect on the public mind.”

Talking on the phone, Siddiqui said digital campaigning involved hiring of tech experts, setting up of media rooms and manning them round-the-clock.

Under the JD-U’s ‘war room’ strategy, 400 trucks equipped with TV sets, music systems, microphones and speakers will move from village to village and showcase the government’s achievements. The personnel manning these vehicles will also interact with villagers and their local representatives to get their ideas and suggestions for Bihar’s development in future.

Flash mobs and street plays are also being planned by JD-U to gain the support of the younger generation, which is expected to play a crucial role in the legislative elections expected to be held in September or October this year.

Parties opposed to the JD-U have started Facebook pages to engage people on the social media in the run-up to the polls.

So apart from the traditional methods like high-pitch sloganeering, colourful buntings, posters and large hoardings to grab the eyeballs of the Bihar electorate, e-campaigning will add more punch to the campaigning by political parties aiming to win a majority in the state assembly.

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India Begins Its Election Season With Five States

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh.

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India, elections
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses the gathering during the 'Global Mobility Summit' in New Delhi, India, VOA

India began on Monday the first of five state elections to be held in coming weeks, important tests for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he plots a course that he hopes will ensure him victory in a general election due by May.

Voters in the central state of Chhattisgarh went to the polls on Monday to elect representatives for 18 of the state assembly’s 90 seats in a staggered poll complicated by logistical problems and left-wing guerrillas.

The state of about 26 million people has been ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2003, and he will be hoping to hold on to power.

India, elections
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Continues To Stay Mum On The #MeToo Movement. Wikimedia Commons

“Some unholy people have handed guns to children who should have pens in their hands,” Modi told a rally in the state on Friday, referring to the rag-tag guerrillas battling government forces from forest hideouts. “They’ve finished the lives of our tribal children.”

Hundreds of election workers had to be flown in to remote polling stations by helicopter because of the danger posed by the rebels.

Modi called for voters to back his BJP and its vision of “development for all.”

The final phase of voting in Chhattisgarh, which is known for its coal, iron ore and bauxite reserves, will be on Nov. 20.

India,India, elections
India’s Congress party President Rahul Gandhi displays documents as he accuses Narendra Modi’s government of buying 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault at a highly inflated price, in New Delhi, India. VOA

The BJP was the preference of about 43 percent of voters in Chhattisgarh, 7 percentage points ahead of the main opposition Congress party, according to a survey released last week by the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Modi’s other big tests will be in the neighboring central state of Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is slightly ahead of Congress, according to polls, and in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, where Congress is expected to emerge victorious.

A good performance by the BJP in the elections would help it deflect growing criticism over unemployment and a crisis in the countryside over falling farm prices and wages.

India, elections
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Elections will also be held for assemblies in Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh, including Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest and the BJP chief minister in Uttar Pradesh state.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi Announces Easier Access to Credit

Adityanath has been appealing to the BJP’s Hindu-nationalist base and on Sunday accused the opposition of blocking construction of a temple for Hindu god Ram on a disputed site in Uttar Pradesh.

The destruction of a mosque on the site by a Hindu mob in 1992 sparked deadly riots across the country. (VOA)