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India opposition BJP taps into social media to drum up support

Leaders say they will use new media for ‘crowd sourcing’

Gulf News

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party is tapping into new communication platforms in a big way as it prepares for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, aiming to enrol 10 million members and associates over the next few months.

BJP leaders said they will use new media for “crowd sourcing [obtaining ideas from the online community]” and will also open a window on the party’s website for suggestions from people.

A campaign, launched by the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) last month, portrays Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a “youth icon” and makes use of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to reach out to youth.

“Since the time Narendra Modi was appointed head of the party’s campaign committee for the Lok Sabha polls, youth want to associate with the BJP with great vigour,” BJYM president Anurag Thakur said.

The BJYM has launched a two-pronged “Young member, Young friend” campaign. The first seeks to enrol the youth using internet platforms, including social media. The other is a door-to-door membership drive that aims to enrol young people in the 18-35 age-group across the country.

The BJYM’s campaign seeks to draw from Modi’s visibility on the social media. The Gujarat chief minister has more than two million followers on Twitter — perhaps the largest for any political leader in India.

BJYM general secretary Rahul Kothari said the first 500 youths to enrol the maximum number of people across the country will be invited to meet Modi. Similarly, 20 youths who make the best suggestions for the 2014 campaign will also get an opportunity to meet Modi, he added.

“Modi is a star leader who has an aura. The youth need an attraction to firm up their association with the party. We are getting good results [from the membership drive],” Kothari said.

According to a report published by the IRIS Knowledge Foundation in collaboration with UN-Habitat, India’s population in the 15-34 age-group increased from 353 million in 2001 to 430 million in 2011. This could rise to 464 million by 2021.

Demographically, India is set to become the world’s “youngest” country by 2020 with 64 per cent of its population in the working age group.

“Our theme is ‘Youth will join, India will change,” Kothari said.

He said young people were making optimum use of information technology and the BJYM has also decided to make the maximum use of internet, social media and mobile applications.

To aid its membership efforts, the BJYM has included a “tele-calling number” in its publicity material. Anyone who calls the telephone number would be contacted by the respective state unit of the ‘yuva morcha’ to get a membership form filled.

He said that the door-to-door campaign, which has a target of enrolling six million members in the BJP, will end on September 23, but the online efforts will continue until the Lok Sabha polls.

“We have a target of enrolling 10 million members,” he said.

The BJYM is also making use of promotional items such as T-shirts, stickers, banners and pamphlets to reach out to the youth. It will also organise conferences, seminars and torch processions and use traditional methods such as wall writings, banners, posters and hoardings, apart from spreading its message through FM radio and cable TV.

India has the fastest internet traffic growth globally and is expected to have 348 million net users by 2017, up from 138 million in 2012, according to a study by networking giant Cisco.

Kothari said the youth were also being asked to provide their blood group on the membership form to prepare directories that could be referred to in case donors are required. Young people are also being asked about their social media profiles and how much time they can spare to work for the party in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

A study by the IRIS Knowledge Foundation and the Internet and Mobile Association of India has said that 160 seats were likely to be influenced by social media during the Lok Sabha elections.

Kothari said special efforts were being made to associate new voters, rural youth, scheduled castes and tribes and well-known youngsters with the party.

The BJP is also making use of social media to prepare its charge sheet against the United Progressive Alliance government.

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