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EC eye on WhatsApp campaigns

Sidhartha Roy and Shaswati Das, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 30, 2013
First Published: 00:15 IST(30/11/2013) | Last Updated: 00:17 IST(30/11/2013)

With candidates contesting the Assembly elections tapping into new age technology to reach out to voters, the Delhi Electoral Office is also trying to keep pace in monitoring them by venturing into newer areas.

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For the first time, the Electoral Office is monitoring social media accounts of candidates, such as those on Facebook and Twitter, to add these as part of election expenditure and also to see that model code of conduct is enforced.

A new addition to the monitoring list is WhatsApp, a popular cross-platform mobile messaging app.

With many candidates now using WhatsApp to reach out to voters, it has also come under the scanner. Delhi’s Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev told Hindustan Times that officials have been asked to monitor WhatsApp accounts of candidates too.

“We are already monitoring the social media to keep a check on candidates’ election expenditure and we are a devising strategy to now track WhatsApp,” said Shurbir Singh, Special Chief Electoral Officer.

Cashing in on technologically savvy voters, smartphone-equipped candidates are trying to reach out to voters through WhatsApp -- a software compatible with all smartphone devices, which connects users through their cellphone numbers.

BJP leader Arti Mehra has been at the forefront in sending out messages to voters in Malviya Nagar. Ignoring the fact that several voters perceived this as an intrusion of privacy, her team claimed that not only was this method innovative, but it also helped establish a strong youth connect.

“We are sending messages to her voters appealing them to vote for her to help bring a clean and honest party to power. For this, we are connecting to the youth voters of the area through WhatsApp,” said a member from Mehra’s technological team.

Mehra has been sending messages in Hindi and English to address issues such as women’s safety, corruption and inflation.

Other candidates, including Tasveer Solanki, the Congress candidate from Dwarka, are using the medium to canvass for votes.

It was, however, unclear how the Electoral Office planned to monitor WhatsApp conversations.

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