After the resounding defeat in the general elections, one would have expected the Congress to do everything it can to put its house back in order. But the Congress seems to be retreating into a shell.
According to a report, while the BJP and the NDA government is expanding its digital presence, the Congress is downsizing its social media team. At least 10 people have been dropped from a team of 25 and of the remaining 15, five have been deployed at its Gurgaon office to handle the party’s social media campaign ahead of the Haryana elections. The only positive step is that the party’s social cell seemed to have taken in recent times is to start a campaign that intends to present a comparison of the NDA’s promises versus realities on Facebook and the use shadow handles on Twitter to take on individual ministries.
The Congress’ reluctance to widen the party’s social media presence further is baffling. Its two top leaders, Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, are not on any of the social media platforms, though many party leaders are there and have a large following. On the other side is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He is the world’s second-most followed politician on Twitter, having added two million followers in the first 100 days of his government. On the flip side, many would point out to analyses that show social media platforms had a minimal impact on the elections. One such analysis done by Indiaspend, a data journalism service, which shows that in 71% of the cases, social media played no role and 70% of the winners had virtually no social media presence in constituencies that have the highest concentration of social media users. In other words, traditional methods of campaigning were more effective.
Yet, no one will deny that social media helps to create a buzz around candidates and also connect with their constituents better. For politicians, the way forward would be to latch on to these services and expand their digital footprint. It can not only help them acquire feedback on public policies but also facilitate a two-way dialogue between the government/party and citizens. The Congress seems to be reluctant to read the writing on the wall that politics has moved beyond interactions at rallies.
Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor have used social media to their advantage. The Congress’ excuse that it does not have enough funds is a little thin on the ground. Social media is not as expensive and laborious as physical meetings. The party must go in for a judicious mix of both, and who knows the results may be something to tweet about.