The upcoming Bihar elections will be the first statewide elections to be conducted following the Covid-19 outbreak in India with strict coronavirus norms in place, including social distancing. This, for the state’s political parties, means a new challenge in election campaigning.
Digitalization is a challenge, thus the NDA alliance partners of BJP and JDU have been working so hard to reach out to every single social media user in the state and not leaving any chance out to miss anyone.
Although, BJP’s IT game is strongest in the country, The party is handling its social media better than any other political party in the election race.
The party has hired about 10,000 people who are working as office-bearers in the IT department of the party. BJP has further identified 5 people at every booth in Bihar who have a smartphone and know how to use them well. With 80,000 booths across the state, the party has roped in more than 4 lakh people who are working directly with the national IT team. This way the party has strengthened its social media use at every Shakti Kendra in Bihar.
These people are divided into further categories and are actively working in several WhatsApp groups and take directions from the national team of the BJP. Party’s message, virtual programs, campaign videos, etc are shown to people at every Shakti Kendra.
According Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) data, Tele-density, which is the number of telephone connections per hundred people, is the lowest in Bihar, at 59 in 2019. The national average, however, is 89, the Hindustan Times reported.
Internet penetration in Bihar, according to the HT report citing TRAI data, by the end of 2019 was 32 subscribers per hundred people, which is much lower than the national average of 54. About 89 per cent of Bihar resides in rural areas, where there are only 22 internet subscribers per 100 people.
BJP spokesman Nikhil Anand said that the elections were happening under strict social distancing norms and called it the new normal. “However, party has its chain of digitally enabled workers, who in turn arrange the digital output system through local cooperation to reach out to maximum people through virtual rallies,” he told the publication.
Prime Minister Modi has started the campaign this week, the party will use technology to have a multiplier effect on the PM’s rallies. Every rally of the PM will be shown in a cluster of 25 assembly constituencies with the help of karyakartas who will use their smartphones to show the PM’s rallies in real-time to a group of 50 people at a time.
However, Social media is proving a harder challenge for BJP ally JDU. The party started building a team from May this year to strengthen their social media outreach. As a source working in the social media team says, “Bihar and JDU were never social media ready.”
JDU started with Nitish Care Facebook page which speaks about the work done by the state government during the pandemic and the floods. The party also started Sunday Samwad, a weekly interactive program where voters can connect with their local party leaders via Facebook live.
Nitish kumar had to make alot of effort to be digital-friendly. Although he is a complete traditional man,Nitish Kumar too had to learn how to connect with people on social media and began his virtual meetings and programs from June this year.
Notably, National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2015-16 shows the state’s 61 per cent of women and 36 per cent of men have no access to mass media. Bihar also has the highest number of women lacking access to mass media in India and in terms of men, the state is only behind Jharkhand, the report cited.