How Karnataka parties are relying on WhatsApp for 2023 poll campaign | Azad Times

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Azad Times News Desk.

The poll battle in the state is heating up not just in roadshows and campaign rallies but also on WhatsApp groups where the IT cells of political parties have a battery of content creators to share propaganda videos.

As the popular folk song ‘Noda Banni, Odi Banni’ plays in the background, a collection of short videos shows Karnataka Congress leader Siddaramaiah performing a folk dance, a seemingly inebriated DK Shivakumar walking amidst a crowd, and a morphed image of Sonia Gandhi dancing to an item number. Though the nearly two-minute video is only one of the thousands of such clips that the Congress’ rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has flooded WhatsApp with, it is illustrative of how the poll battle in Karnataka is heating up not just in roadshows and campaign rallies but also on WhatsApp groups.

If WhatsApp became a key tool in spreading party propaganda in the run-up to the 2018 Karnataka Assembly elections, this time the major political parties contesting the elections – BJP, Congress, and Janata Dal (Secular) – have turned to creating short videos to promote their leaders as well as deride their political rivals on the popular social media platform.

The BJP, which has the largest network on social media platforms among the three major parties, is focusing its social media campaign on targeting the Congress, its biggest rival in the state. “We plan on unravelling Congress’ lies and how they have betrayed voters across the country and state,” Vikas P, who heads the Karnataka BJP’s social media team, told TNM.

The party has the biggest reach on social media among its rivals, with over 45 lakh followers on Twitter and over 94 lakh followers on Facebook. In comparison, the Congress’ Karnataka page has 30 lakh followers on Twitter and 47 lakh followers on Facebook. It also has a network of over 50,000 WhatsApp groups set up at the voting booth level in the state.

While some videos shared by the BJP are routine in nature and valorise party leaders and highlight development schemes, the heads of IT cells of political parties admit that Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp are a hotbed of misinformation in the run-up to the elections.

Congress has better reach on Instagram

Priyank Kharge, Chairman, Communications in the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), said that he often finds misinformation in the form of hate speech targeting minorities. “We are in constant touch with the All India Congress Committee social media department, which helps us raise complaints against hate speech directly with Twitter, Facebook, and other such platforms. We continuously flag accounts that are malicious, abusive, and those that spread misinformation and hate,” Priyank said.

On Instagram, the photo and video sharing social media platform, the Congress’ Karnataka page has considerable reach, with over 87,000 followers compared to the BJP’s 59,000 followers. “We are creating witty and sarcastic videos specifically for Instagram and Facebook,” Priyank said.

The party has focussed its attention on campaigns deriding the BJP on issues like corruption, unemployment, and inflation. “We are focussing on highlighting how ineffective the BJP government has been in fulfilling the promises it made in previous manifestos. We ran the PayCM campaign, which was a massive success. We also have the #NimmaHattiraIdeyaUttara? campaign, wherein we asked the ruling government if it had answers to why its manifesto promises have not been completed,” Priyank said.

JD(S) outreach to rural voters on WhatsApp

In comparison to its rivals, the JD(S) has a smaller following on social media with just 50,000 followers each on its Twitter and Facebook page but the party’s social media head Prathap Kanagal told TNM that their focus is on reaching out to voters on WhatsApp. “We have created WhatsApp groups at the booth level and are training our local candidates and their teams to take up issues in their constituency on WhatsApp. We are also creating local social media teams in each constituency where we have announced candidates,” Prathap said.

The party has set up a war room in Bengaluru with professionals – including content writers, video and photo editors –who are creating content in line with the party’s pro-farmer ideology to target people in the rural parts of the state. “We know the strengths of our rivals. Both the Congress and BJP will have people coming in from other states and helping with their efforts for the upcoming elections. But we’re going to stick to our plan and reach out to the rural Kannadiga voter, primarily in Kannada,” Prathap added.

He said that the party has made video content prophesying how Kannadigas will lose their rights if the state’s staple milk brand Nandini is merged with Amul as proposed. JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy had recently warned that there would be protests if the Union government attempted to undermine the Karnataka Milk Federation by merging it with the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, which manages the Amul brand of milk.

“We have to push our view out. We know that fake news spreads very quickly on social media… whether it is true or not, it is read,” Prathap noted.

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Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a Syndicated Feed and has not been created or edited By Azad Times Staff.

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