UP election: BSP’s social media volunteers
The political science student from western UP’s Hapur tours the state on his motorcycle, buses and even trains to cover each of BSP chief Mayawati’s rallies.assembly elections Updated: Feb 26, 2017 10:12 IST
Twenty-four-year-old Vimal Varun is a busy man during the UP poll season.
The political science student from western UP’s Hapur tours the state on his motorcycle, buses and even trains to cover each of BSP chief Mayawati’s rallies.
He takes behenji’s pictures on a DSLR, video records her speeches on his mobile phone, and broadcasts it live on the Facebook page ‘Mayawati’, which has more than two lakh followers. As soon as the rally ends, Varun puts excerpts from the former CM’s speech on the Facebook page.
“If you see my work, you would find it equally good, in fact, better, than what is done by social media teams of other parties. But they don’t judge me based on my work. They see my caste,” said Varun, packing his luggage, for an early morning train to Lucknow where Mayawati was to address a rally.
Compared to the massive professional digital war rooms of other parties, it is volunteers like Varun who form BSP’s social media team.
Scattered across the state and working without any official mandate, the volunteers constantly feed social media with information that they believe the mainstream media ‘deliberately’ ignores. “They are conscious that they will lose the perception war if they rely on the mainstream media. They want to make their presence felt and social media platforms allow that,” said JNU professor Vivek Kumar.
The way BSP’s digital volunteers operate may appear odd to their detractors but it is in sync with the evolution of the party.
“It is wrong to look at the BSP as a party with a formal organisational structure. It is still in the movement phase. Volunteers continue to form the backbone of the party,” said Kumar.
“How do you expect a digital war room from a party that does not even release its manifesto? We follow a bottom-up approach,” said Devendra Pratap Singh, who tweets from the handle ‘BSP4UP’.
While running multiple Facebook pages, Devendra and his brother Yogendra observed that many BSP sympathisers left their contact numbers in the comment section. They made a database of around 2,000 such numbers and added them on multiple WhatsApp groups on which they send at least two messages every day.
While volunteers are making BSP’s presence felt on the social media, Mayawati continues to be wary of the medium. “Behenji is apprehensive because it is easy to manipulate information on social media,” said Satish Ambedkar, who runs the page ‘Behen G Ko Aane Do’. “But if our efforts show results, the party might change its mindset.”