Ahead Of Karnataka Polls, A Look At BJP, Congress' Social Media War Rooms

Karnataka elections 2018: Both Congress and BJP have launched a parallel campaign on social media

Ahead Of Karnataka Polls, A Look At BJP, Congress' Social Media War Rooms

Karnataka polls: Congress and BJP have set up social media war rooms in Bengaluru (ANI)

New Delhi:  With less than 20 days to go before Karnataka votes in the assembly elections, campaign is hotting up. For the two national parties, it's not just rallies and road shows but increasingly about tweet wars, Facebook likes and WhatsApp forwards.

Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah and the BJP's chief ministerial face BS Yeddyurappa have frequently exchanged barbs on Twitter, with both putting up posts in Kannada as well to expand their reach on social media.

At the Congress social media war room housed in a posh locality in Bengaluru, the buzz is that ground support for Mr Siddaramaiah is unmatchable and his witty tweets are getting a lot of traction online.

"We are getting hundreds of retweets," one of the social media office bearers told news agency ANI.

The Chief Minister has 1.4 followers on Twitter, nearly half of what his rival and former chief minister Mr Yeddyurappa has. On Facebook, Mr Siddaramaiah has 1.73 lakh people following him, that's about one-tenth of the 17.4 followers that Mr Yeddyurappa has.

The war room is just about getting into effect, said Congress Spokesperson Madhu Goud Yakshi, adding that the message from party chief Rahul Gandhi has been to "strengthen the organisation".

That has had an effect, with volunteers coming in from various parts of the campaign to be part of the campaign, claimed Mr Yakshi.

The Congress social media unit has just about 50 volunteers --- mainly journalism and political science students --- working on graphics, tweets and Facebook posts. Countering "fake news put out by BJP handles" is our main work, one of the volunteers told ANI.

At a training session for spokespersons of the Congress party in Bengaluru, the party's national communications in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala had one key advice --- "Machhli Ki Aankh Pey Nazar Rakho" (Focus on the message).

The BJP's media units are spread across several buildings. At the TV monitoring room, 67 monitors, all but one streaming Kannada channels are watched by 45 volunteers who then post information on WhatsApp groups. The social media core team has 40 people.

Balaji Sreenivas, an IT professional in the team, told ANI that 98 per cent of their social media work is in Kannada. There are over 5,000 volunteers spread across the state who have been working to spread the BJP messaging since August last year, he said.

Mr Sreenivas claims that they have penetration into 23,000 Whatsapp groups that they either control or have got their messaging across to on a constant basis. About 200 workshops have been conducted for the 'volunteers' in the last ten months.

Their main job is to highlight what they call the "misgovernance" of the Siddaramaiah government and "negativity towards Hindus", reports ANI.

Both the BJP and the Congress camps say they are confident of a win in next month's assembly polls. The results will be known on May 15 when votes are counted.

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