‘Volunteers’ are proving their worth for political parties which have to record social media expenses this poll season, when almost all outfits are going on an online overdrive to highlight achievements and to target rivals.
The political parties are running campaigns on social networking site Facebook, micro-blogging site Twitter and mobile messenger WhatsApp with a special focus on the media-savvy youth – who constitute more than 57% of the state’s total electorate.
On January 15, chief electoral officer Radha Raturi announced all political parties and candidates have to keep record of expenditures incurred on maintaining social media accounts. But the parties seem to have found a way to bypass the order: they claim social media work is largely being done on “volunteer basis”.
Besides interactive online activities, Congress is undertaking a hashtag campaign titled ‘Dhol Ki Pol’, where it has been firing one question everyday at the opposition BJP – a feature which will continue till the February 15 polls. BJP, meanwhile, is playing up a ‘Pol Khol’ campaign, which raises the voice of the “common man” by posting posts highlighting public grievances. Regional party Uttarakhand Kranti Dal –the only recognized state party of Uttarakhand – is hitting out at both the national parties on social media.
BJP’s social media in-charge Ravindra Dutt Petwal said the party’s manpower and expenses on social media were almost negligible as over 95% of the team members were contributing as volunteers. “We have more than 150 volunteers, including many engineers and computer applications graduates, making expenses on their own,” he told HT.
Over 400 youngsters are associated with the social media team with most of them comprising local volunteers, Congress IT cell president Amarjeet Singh said. “The EC guideline regarding usage of social media and expenses is itself not very clear. Besides two paid staff, most of our workforce is working on a voluntary basis. So, it is virtually impossible to keep a track,” he said.
Nodal officer (media) for assembly poll, Nitin Upadhyaya said as per the standing guidelines of the Election Commission, social media expenses by volunteers are kept out of the purview of poll expenditure. “However, returning officers were asked to issue notices for adding such expenditure into a party/candidate’s poll account if they can prove or have strong reasons to believe that such volunteers are working for the party or candidate,” he clarified.