Jaipur: While News18-IPSOS Lok Sabha Exit Poll gave BJP 22-23 seats, Today's Chanakya has predicted all 25 seats to the BJP, Republic C-Voter exit poll also handed the BJP a comfortable win with a haul of 22 seats. India Today Axis exit poll also predicted a similar figure, giving BJP 23-25 seats.
Several factors - from party infighting to its ticket distribution - will be discussed, were these numbers to hold their own on May 23, to understand why the Congress yet again failed to open its account in the state. The BJP may be credited for being able to sustain its campaign around Modi and nationalism.
But if one were to pick a less obvious and more impactful reason for BJP’s resounding success in Rajasthan, a large credit for it will go to a parallel election campaign run on social media by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh.
The campaign, brought back the BJP from its loss in the Assembly elections less than six months ago, and put it on a strong footing. It gave heft to the BJP’s push to retain electoral dominance.
The RSS tried to shape the public mood against Congress in the virtual world while posting and circulating messages that appear to be ‘neutral’ but had 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 the 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 the 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 the 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.”