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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014
Cyber war rages among political parties, adds colour to campaign
Vivek Gupta, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, January 10, 2012
First Published: 16:07 IST(10/1/2012)
Last Updated: 09:18 IST(11/1/2012)

Ki hoya je patjhar aaee, Agli rut wich yakin rakhi,” PPP president Manpreet Singh Badal is heard reciting in his typical poetic style, followed by a four-minute grooving promotional video of the party, its own version of Kolaveri Di propagating the PPP’s ideology and tossing up political opponents.

“Thousands hit the song hours after it was uploaded on YouTube and Facebook,” says Arunjot Sodhi (39), one of Manpreet’s close aides and party’s cyber warrior who, along with Bhagwant Mann, is leaving no stone unturned to build the party’s campaign on social networking sites.

Political parties have invaded social networking sites and other online sources to woo the cyber world ahead of the coming assembly elections through slogans, songs, ad campaigns, news as well as videos. Right from day-to-day happenings to information on rallies, list of candidates and photo galleries, everything is available on the Facebook accounts and websites of key leaders.

Though the “doctored” propaganda and morphed photos of politicians (uploaded by users) have also seeped in, the online canvassing largely focuses on promotional videos and songs targeted at thousands of potential online voters, especially urban youth.

Jeeta and Jaggi, the animated characters of the Congress, are a big success on YouTube. Besides, a special Facebook page has been devoted to them. State Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh’s website www.captainforcm.com has recently uploaded a song, “Ki banu Punjab da”, hitting the Badals hard. On the other hand, news items and the press conference video of Amarinder’s brother Malwinder joining the SAD figure on Sukhbir Badal’s Facebook page.

The online verbosity may not have a similar resonance as the noisy outdoor campaigning, but it definitely has the liveliness. Managed by professional teams of cyber warriors, the online campaign of political parties has added colour to the otherwise drab affair.

“Online campaigning has an important role to play for the first time in the Punjab elections,” says Captain Sandeep Sandhu, the backroom strategist of the Congress who is also handling the party’s online campaign.

“Many of us are working constantly to improve the party’s presence in the virtual world. The online campaign will gain momentum in days to come. In the next two-three days, we will be uploading songs on YouTube and Facebook,” says Sandhu.

The SAD has dedicated a team of three-four professionals for the job and hired a Delhi-based agency to maintain the Facebook pages and websites of its key leaders. It has also started a Google Advt campaign, besides shooting e-mails to voters. “Though we were late in launching our online campaign, we are now going full throttle,” says a party insider.

“Sukhbir’s Facebook page has more hits than those of Amarinder and Manpreet. It is designed very attractively and updated everyday. Besides, we have over 10 lakh e-mail addresses, to which we send mails everyday. We show all the Facebook records to Sukhbir and keep him updated on all our activities,” he says.

For Manpreet Badal’s young PPP, online campaign is a major tool in the elections. Party’s star campaigner Bhagwant Mann (37), who is a cyber warrior too, says the PPP has a fan base of over 70,000 on its various Facebook accounts. He says all the news items and videos regarding the PPP and the Sanjha Morcha are uploaded before 7 am everyday.

“We also send promotional messages to all party members and keep them posted on our activities, besides maintaining proper coordination among candidates through online activities,” says Sodhi.

BJP leaders are also doing online canvassing on Facebook.


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