Having lear nt a harsh lesson in the 2012 assembly polls — when massive Facebook support translated into a zero in the poll results — People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) president Manpreet Singh Badal is concentrating more on public rallies this time. On the other hand, Manpreet’s sister-in-law, sitting MP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Harsimrat Kaur Badal, has upped the ante on social media websites.
Manpreet, who is contesting the Lok Sabha poll as a Congress-backed candidate, had been anointed the chief minister of Punjab by Facebook users before the 2012 assembly elections. He had formed the PPP a year before that, after claiming to have disagreements with his uncle, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, and the CM’s son and deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal, mainly over economic policy. The buzz was all the more as Manpreet was an active user of the site himself. “But it could not prove fruitful. There is no alternative to campaigning in the real world,” said Jasvir Singh, a campaign manager for Manpreet in Bathinda.
“Many FB users are fake; also, very few of these users go to polling booths on voting day,” said Jasvir, adding, “If 5,000 people are attached with you on Facebook, you deliver your message to the same set every day. But if you hold rallies, you meet 3,000 people every time, and it multiplies.”
Jasvir also cited poor internet connectivity in the region, “This is backward area. Wherever there is internet connectivity, the speed is slow.”
But Harsimrat’s campaign managers think differently. A source said a special team has been formed by the SAD that operates from Delhi. “This team will not only operate social media sites for Harsimrat, but will also combat if any opposite campaign attacks her in virtual world,” the source said.
Harsimrat told Hindustan Times, “We will use all means to reach every group of people. I have remained in touch with people of Bathinda for five years through ‘sangat darshan’ programmes.”