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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

Congress lagging behind in exploiting social media, Ajay Maken rues

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Kolkata , September 07, 2013
First Published: 22:04 IST(7/9/2013) | Last Updated: 22:07 IST(7/9/2013)

Congress is lagging behind other parties in the use of social media and reaching out to the growing population of tech-savvy urban youth, Ajay maken, Congress general secretary and former union housing and urban poverty alleviation minister who took charge of the newly constituted communications department of the party admitted on Saturday.

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The communications department of the Congress is a brainchild of the party's vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
 
Addressing a workshop for party workers on the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter in Kolkata on Saturday— the first of 73 similar workshops planned across the country—Maken rued how Congress workers have failed to highlight achievements of the UPA government and propagate the importance of recently passed bills among crores of social media users.
 
“It is important that Congress workers extract the best possible mileage out of social media. The achievements of the UPA government should be highlighted among the tech-savvy youth. National channels ki debates mein toh hamara pitayi hota hai (We are practically beaten black and blue in the debates on national news channels),” Maken remarked.
 
“The benefits of the Food Security Act, Right to Information (RTI), Right to Education (RTE), MGNREGA, Right to Fair Compensation and other such flagship schemes need to be campaigned extensively on the virtual world. It is only due to RTI that many scams could be unearthed and transparency introduced in the administration,” Maken added.
 
Incidentally, the Congress has been at the receiving end of various RTI applications, including one filed by Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejwiral, who alleged Robert Vadra, businessman and son-in-law of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, bought assets worth over Rs. 300 crore through ‘unsecured interest-free loans’ from real estate firm DLF.
 
Even Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, based on an RTI application, went public with allegations that the UPA government spent Rs. 1,880 crore towards foreign travel and medical expenses of Sonia Gandhi.
 
On Saturday, Maken said the communications department of the party in all states would consist of a research team, spokespersons and a social media team. “The research team would detail the party ideology, plans and benefits of the schemes it has implemented or is planning to implement and the role of various leaders,” Maken said.
 
“Spokespersons would appear on television debates to argue the Congress case and they would be supplied materials by the research team. The social media team would have to be active on Facebook and Twitter and highlight the party’s achievements,” Maken added.
 
Congress leaders also felt a clear-cut party policy outlined on social media would also minimise chances of confusion among the electorate as different party leaders often tend to speak in different voices.
 
Maken also did not miss the opportunity to target chief minister Mamata Banerjee for her opposition to the food security bill and land bill. State Congress leaders alleged the Trinamool supremo is passing off central schemes as her own and party workers need to campaign extensively on the social media against it.
 
Congress observer to the state unit, Shakeel Ahmed, remarked that social media users are a powerful opinion-shaping group and party workers should use this tool to expose the lies of opposition parties.
 
“Through social media, you can be in touch with your leaders and spread any kind of untoward incident in any corner of the state to the rest of India within seconds. Till the other day, it seemed BJP is the only voice of social media,” Ahmed said, while addressing party workers.
 
The state Congress has also launched a wing to use RTI to expose corruption and irregularities in the Mamata Banerjee government as well as zilla parishad, panchayat samiti, gram panchayat, municipalities and corporations run by the Trinamool Congress.


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