Having seen the power of social media in Manipur and Assam, BJP is going to replicate the model in Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya, which go to the polls in 2018.
It was social media that delivered Manipur to the BJP in the recent assembly election — although the party won only 21 of the 60 seats in the assembly (Congress won 29), it has formed the government there with the support of three regional parties — the Naga People’s Front, National People’s Party, and the Lok Janshakti Party.
BJP, which has been trying to make inroads into the northeast for decades, seems to have hit the jackpot with three quick wins — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and now Manipur — in the region.
It all started in with its landslide victory in the general election in 2014. It’s become a pattern now — Assam in 2016, UP in 2017, and now Manipur. The party just knows how to work social media to its advantage and only seems to be getting better at the game.
In November 2016, BJP kicked-off a high-pitched social media campaign in Manipur on more than 100 WhatsApp groups, a number of Facebook pages, Twitter handles and Twitter channels
“I feel that without that five-month long campaign, the results would have been different” — Shivam, member of the BJP’s EMT
The Congress too launched a social media campaign, but it failed to make an impact. The BJP’s Facebook page BJP4Manipur has 32,580 likes while ours, Manipur with Congress, only 3,230 likes. The Congress Twitter handle has just over 250 followers.
The BJP’s Facebook page has 32,580 likes while the Congress’s has only 3,230 likes. The Congress Twitter handle has just over 250 followers as compared to BJP’s over 6,500
The BJP is adept at using social media to its electoral advantage. To some extent, India in 2014 was delivered to Narendra Modi on a social media platter. Having realised the power of social in previous elections, the party upgraded its social media strategy in May last year, ahead of the seven state elections in 2017.
It had leveraged social media in Assam in 2016 and vowed to repeat its victory in Manipur. It left no stone unturned to capture voters’ minds with an intense social media campaign in the state, especially to get around biases and affiliations that often abound traditional media.
In Manipur, the EMT used WhatApp groups to great effect. Groups like BJP4ImphalEast and BJP4Ukhrulci sent back vital information on constituencies. They focused on the people’s problems, what the Congress government was doing to mitigate those problems, if at all. And what BJP was promising it would do if it came to power.
When the EMT launched the campaign, the BJP4Manipur FB page had only 980 likes, reveals Shivam. “After we took charge, the number of likes went up to nearly 31,183. We started posting what the BJP government was doing in other northeastern states and what it could do for Manipur,” he says.
The EMT decided to target Congress on corruption and use social media to do so. The EMT did months of research to identity potential vote banks, and posted 100 chargesheets filed by the party against Congress workers in Manipur on Facebook and WhatsApp.
“Newspapers and other media soon picked up on the corruption cases. It was a big blow for the Congress. We used our Twitter channel @BJP4Manipur to highlight corruption and Manipur’s problems to the national media,” says Shivam. They have 6,536 followers on Twitter.
The campaign was aimed at influencing people and shifting perceptions, and the EMT achieved that goal very well. “In India, social media is not widespread enough to rope in voters to win an election. But, we used social media to influence what people talked about. The conversation did change after our campaign,” he adds.
Having seen the power of social media more than once, the party is going full steam ahead to replicate the model in other states of the northeast with Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya all scheduled for elections in 2018.
The goal of BJP’s social media campaigns in the northeast is to get people talking about issues in their states and the lack of development in the region. “We want to show people that a better future is possible with BJP, under PM Narendra Modi’s leadership,” says Shivam.
Six months before the elections next year in the other NE states, the EMT team will start doing extensive research about their political history and building ground teams to analyse the voting pattern