How RSS is Running a Silent Social Media Campaign to Give Heft to BJP in Rajasthan
Content is created carefully keeping in mind that ‘BJP’ is not mentioned anywhere, in an attempt to appear ‘neutral’. All that these groups do is create doubt in the minds of voters against Congress and urge people not to opt for NOTA.
A member of BJP’s propaganda wing proudly states that the party has been able to create an army of volunteers parallel to the ground force of the party.
The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh is running a parallel election campaign on social media, giving heft to the BJP’s push to retain electoral dominance after losing power to Congress in Rajasthan just six months back.
RSS is trying to shape the public mood against Congress in the virtual world while posting and circulating messages that appear to be ‘neutral’ but have a distinct political sub-text. A person in charge of a ‘prant’ level WhatsApp group shared the details with News18 of how this is being done.
“This time we don’t need a wave. We don’t need go all out to support BJP candidates as well. In fact we don’t need BJP at all for this,” the person running the group named ‘Prant Pracharak Toli’ said. He said that BJP supporters and leaders were strictly kept out of such groups.
“Since it’s our maiden venture, we’re trying to keep it very organised to see which content is running where, to zero-in on content that isn’t working, and to identify areas where we need to work extra hard,” said the person who wished to remain anonymous.
To this end, the RSS groups that work below ‘Prant’ level are code-marked with digits. The ‘Prant’ number is followed by a ‘Vibhag’ number followed by the code given to the local ‘Mahanagar’. These codes help the people running the groups fix a WhatsApp group’s geographical location.
Content on these groups, said the person involved, is created carefully keeping in mind that ‘BJP’ is not mentioned anywhere, in an attempt to appear ‘neutral’. All that these groups do is create doubt in the minds of voters against Congress and urge people not to opt for ‘NOTA’ when they go out to vote.
Both in MP and Rajasthan in recent assembly polls, NOTA polled more than the winning margin of the Congress over BJP in many constituencies.
Another example on the silent RSS campaign is the widely circulated message in RSS groups across Rajasthan on Priyanka Gandhi pulling out of the battle in Varanasi. She did it, the message states, following a meticulous plan.
“Those who remember what opinion polls, surveys, political pundits said in ‘04 would know that Vajpayee was being projected as the undisputed choice of public...this resulted in low voter turnout since middle-class voters thinking that he would win, did not vote at all…this is what Priyanka Gandhi is doing...first she hinted at fighting Modi and then Congress fielded the same old candidate which had lost last time to give an impression that there is no fight so that BJP voters don’t bother casting their ballots…”
Two to three new messages emanate out of these WhatsApp groups. The RSS leader in-charge of one such groups illustrates how RSS run groups were different from those run by the BJP.
“For instance the BJP groups are quite political. They will focus on day to day activities and respond to current trends. We are focused on some other issues...vartamaan haalat ki chinta jiske saath saath hum Congress par sunyojit tareeke se aakraman bhi karte hain.”
“Apart from Whatsapp...we are also concentrating on Twitter. A message has been sent to all Swayamsevaks to devote two minutes of their morning in ‘trending’ a hashtag like ‘#DeshdrohiCongress’ for instance...It is not only picked up by people, media organisations are also forced to take note of them. So we get publicity twice over.”
In a different part of Rajasthan, Ajmer, a former state level IT cell member of BJP who is now ‘media-in-charge’ explains how the party is bowing down to take advice from tech-savvy youngsters dedicated to Modi.
“I and a lot of other people like me...we are given a say in party matters...A 26-member team which included state leaders, when it sat down after assembly elections to prepare strategy and decide candidature, people like me were a part of it,” says 31-year-old Ankur Soni, who used to work as a journalist but has been on a break since November last year.
“There are around 30 major Whatsapp groups across Rajasthan which get content from the people above and where some new content is created...these get spread through thousands of whatsApp groups run by subsidiaries,” Soni says.
Soni has had very little interaction with Bhagirath Chowdhary, the local BJP candidate from Ajmer, and he couldn’t care less. A member of BJP’s propaganda wing proudly states that the party has been able to create an army of volunteers from 16-30, parallel to the ground force of the party, which work only to see Modi in the PM’s chair.
“We respond to events on a minute-to-minute basis. For instance in Ajmer there were several reports of the turnout in Sunny Deol’s road show being smaller than that in Govinda’s road show. It was reported in papers as well,” Soni says. The two Bollywood stars had campaigned for BJP and Congress candidates respectively on the last of campaigning.
“So we immediately circulated photos where density of people behind Deol looked higher than those behind Govinda’s. We showed empty lanes with Congress flags strewn across the place, being swept to dustbins...and suddenly we were successful in mounting a counterattack,” Soni says.
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