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RSS, Anonymous inspired AAP’s social media strategy, says book

Upcoming book by Ankit Lal,chief of AAP’s social media cell, also talks about special RSS training sessions aimed at teaching swayamsevaks how to use Twitter to promote its ideology.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2017 12:39 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
AAP,Social media strategy,RSS
The Aam Aadmi Party was founded in November 2012 by anti-corruption activists Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav, among others. (Virendra Singh Gosain/ HT Photo)

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had its Twitter strategy in place even before the party was launched in November 2012. It wedded the social media game plan of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with that of hacker-activist group Anonymous to make an impact in the virtual world.

This revelation is part of an upcoming book by Ankit Lal, founder and chief of AAP’s social media cell. Titled India Social, it will be released by AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal on November 24 – two days before the party’s fifth founding day.

The strategy of the RSS – the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – depended on using its “on-ground network to build an online support base”, writes Lal. The AAP social media team was made privy to the right wing organisation’s strategy by an RSS activist named Kapil Rishi Yadav, who volunteered to help the political party while it was still emerging from the shadow of an anti-corruption movement launched by social worker Anna Hazare, he adds.

According to Lal, the RSS held special training sessions to teach its swayamsevaks (volunteers) how to create Twitter accounts and use the platform to promote its ideology. “I also took a cue from online hacktivist group Anonymous, (which happens to be) an Internet gathering with a very loose and decentralised command structure. I amalgamated the two strategies to create our Twitter approach,” he says.

Lal and his team then went on to identify people whose tweets favoured AAP. “We did what the RSS did – create several teams across various cities in India – but based our strategy on the Anonymous model by finding sympathetic people through online chat groups and social media platforms,” the book reveals.

The RSS’ influence on Indian politics runs deep, although it claims to be an apolitical cultural organisation. Both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi were swayamsevaks before they became heads of BJP governments at the Centre. Most members of Modi’s present council of ministers enjoy close links with the RSS.

The right-wing organisation has nearly 700,000 followers on Twitter, while the BJP has 7.7 million. Modi is the third-most influential political figure on Twitter with 37 million followers, bettered only by US President Donald Trump and Pope Francis.

While the BJP is in power at the Centre as well as 18 states, the AAP rules Delhi (with Kejriwal as the chief minister) and acts as the principal opposition party in Punjab. Its Twitter outreach far exceeds its boots on the ground, with 4.3 million followers. Kejriwal has nearly 13 million followers.

First Published: Nov 21, 2017 09:59 IST