Facebook may have bought mobile phone-based messaging application WhatsApp in a 19-billion-dollar deal, but the social networking site is not a boss to WhatsApp, at least not in the high-voltage poll war between Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa and Bollywood actor Vinod Khanna of the BJP in Gurdaspur.
Boasting of more than 4 lakh Facebook users, mainly on account of Pathankot, an army cantonment, Bajwa’s team is using the social networking site to reach voters through cyberspace.
Bajwa’s daily poll campaign — from rallies and statements to pictures — are all being uploaded by his social media team on Facebook.
Though Bajwa had been dithering on contesting the polls, his official Facebook page, ‘Think Gurdaspur, Vote Bajwa’ was created last year in June and has bagged 53,369 likes till Monday, with 35,972 people talking about it.
Registered with the Election Commission, the FB page is being counted in Bajwa’s expenses.
Before the turf war verdict is out, Bajwa’s team claims to have defeated Khanna at least in the virtual war.
“Khanna is lagging far behind on Facebook, despite being a celebrity. His total likes on his two main Facebook pages – as an actor and a politician are way behind Bajwa’s with just 15,000 likes on the actor page and 2,757 on the politician page.
Khanna’s Facebook hardly has any updates on his poll campaign while the comments on Bajwa’s posts at time exceed 1,000, so the youth are engaging with him,” claims Bajwa’s social media team.
Managing it is Bajwa’s NRI friend Bobby Sidhu, who has flown down from Toronto to handle his
“Youngsters these days are politically active and Facebook is our way to reach them. Bajwa is a grassroots politician. He is the son of the soil. But the role of the social media in the poll scenario cannot be ignored.
It is the best way to connect to the youth and present them your ideas and vision,” Sidhu said.
Khanna’s campaign team says that unlike Bajwa’s, their attack is issue-based.
“We are not active on Facebook. We are sending MMS clips to our large base of WhatsApp users across all the assembly segments in Gurdaspur, such as Pathankot, Batala and Sujanpur. The messages have been customised according to the local issues of these areas.
Sent as MMS clippings, they speak about promises Bajwa made during his election in 2009 and his performance in Parliament. One such clipping shows how Bajwa disrupted the debate in Parliament when the sensitive issue of anti-Sikh riots was being debated.
We are also sending WhatsApp messages on his performance versus that of Khanna as MP. Khanna started the airport in Gurdaspur, which is lying defunct for the past five years, and the Dhariwal mill, while Bajwa has failed to bring a single project during his tenure,” says Payal, friend of Khanna’s wife Kavita Khanna.
Though Bajwa has the advantage of having a ‘Punjab team’ to connect with the media, Khanna is operating with the help of his and wife’s family and friends from Mumbai and Delhi, besides a few BJP leaders.
Khanna’s team claims that his film dialogues are a big hit. “Khanna ke Bajwa ke liye saat sawal made a huge impact on WhatsApp,” Payal adds.
While they compete for numbers in the mobile messages and virtual space, on ground, people in Gurdaspur are also taking about Aam Aadmi Party candidate Sucha Singh Chhotepur.
At Bhalowali village in Gurdaspur, farmer Satnam Singh says, “We have seen both the Congress and the Akali-BJP. Badalan ne te sab naujawanan nu free kar ditta.
Congress ne vi koi kam nai keeta. Hun taan tije nu wi vekh laiye (Badals have made our youth idle.
The Congress too did nothing. No harmin trying the third option).” Kashmir Singh, a granthi at a gurdwara in Khaira village of Gurdaspur, is not willing to take sides. Claiming that the voters will be divided between the three candidates, he simply says, “Tinna nu batheriya vota pe jaaniya (All three candidates will get a big chunk of votes).”