New Delhi: Convicted in the fodder scam, this is the first time in the last three decades that RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav is not a participant in the high-voltage electioneering in Bihar. However, in his absence, the party is attempting to disseminate its leader’s message through the social media.
If one cannot hear the RJD chief make a speech this election, his supporters want that the quintessential Lalu quips, the banter and humour can at least be read on the leader's Twitter feed.
"Dear friends! While in jail, My Twitter handle shall be operated by my office in consultation with family. I shall speak my mind through visitors. The fight to preserve the Constitution & protect the rights of vulnerable groups shall go on," Prasad's Twitter handle reads.
RJD’s rise to prominence in the social media ladder is also a reflection of its ambitions because its main opponent and current Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s party, Janta Dal (United), is indeed nascent in the Twitter space. Opened in January last year, it has around 3,000 followers, a number that’s no match for other major influencers in the same space.
The point is not the numbers though, but the impression the RJD is creating. With senior Yadav in jail, the onus is on his son Tejashwi and he, along with party’s official handle and parents’ handles, is killing it on Twitter.
Sample this tweet in which he is channelling humour and political slogan in one:
This is just one part of it as Lalu Prasad’s account carries his easygoing, rustic image.
Take a look:
This is almost as if he is interacting with a live audience, something that the Delhi CM and AAP member Arvind Kejriwal has also used effectively in the past. But what makes Prasad unique is the colloquial usage of ‘lalten’ (oil lamp). Such phrases immediately strike a chord in a state known for, rather made fun of, its easily perceptible pronunciations.
Then he switches gear and attacks opponents mercilessly. While his parody accounts and impressionists have turned ‘budbak’ (simpleton) into one of the most identified ‘Bihari’ words over the years, he is still exploiting it for traction.
Then there are these tweets which are aimed at consolidating core voters:
It’s apparent that he wants to be seen as the family head where everything else works as per his commands.
Sanjay Yadav, one of RJD's political strategists and the person behind its social media gameplan, says it’s about creating a synergy between the leader and his/her audience. He says, “Every leader has their individual identity, appeal and target audience, and that decides the content. If anybody has come to listen to Laluji then the speaker and listener both know what is expected of them. Similarly, Tejashwiji understands the expectations of the youth.”
In comparison, Rabri Devi has a more aggressive stance. Recently, she engaged in a verbal volley with a journalist and eventually won more sympathisers.
Sanjay says, “In a way, it was a challenge thrown at a woman who came from a rural background. It reeked of patriarchy. You can criticise a political statement but what kind of entitlement was this? If the Prime Minister tweets something in Kannada, does he write it himself?”
He adds, “We are not bothered much about the opposition on social media, it’s more about ideology. If there are haters then there are supporters as well. It helps in breaking new grounds even if the mainstream media doesn’t support us.”
While Lalu Prasad’s account is more about projecting absurdity and Tejashwi’s about youthfulness, Rabri Devi focuses on emotional appeal. She frequently uses Bhojpuri and presents herself as the victim.
It’s a 360 degree approach to looking at social issues and still keeping it in the family.
Sanjay adds another dimension to it and says, “It’s not the time when you can say anything and walk away just because RJD is a regional party.”
For a party that didn’t have any digital footprint seven years back, it’s a long journey in a short span. Sanjay says, “Initially around 2012, there wasn’t even an official website of RJD. There were supporters but they were not mobilised and properly channelised. We thought there should be a robust strategy when we can rope in supporters and sympathisers.”
Now when the digital battle is as intense as the on-ground campaigning, the RJD looks ahead of its local counterparts, at least for the time being. Sanjay confidently says, “I don’t think any other party in Bihar has been able to achieve what we have.”