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Congress hopes to regain lost ground through virtual war

Party setting up separate social media war-room in Chandigarh; to rope in volunteers in all districts to counter AAP

punjab Updated: Feb 04, 2016 08:55 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times
Punjab Assembly polls,elections in Punjab,news
Though Capt Amarinder Singh is in talks with Modi’s and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s strategist Prashant Kishor, the former Punjab CM is already setting up a social media war-room.(HT FILE )

Taking a leaf out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 poll script, the Congress, too, will soon have its own army of social media warriors for the 2017 Punjab polls. Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh is readying his own social media war-room to counter the challenge of the Aam Aadmi Party’s strong on-ground and “virtual” presence in the state.

Though he is in talks with Modi’s and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s strategist Prashant Kishor — who may be engaged by Amarinder after a go-ahead from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi — the former Punjab CM is already setting up a social media war-room, which will rope in volunteers in each district and constituency of the state to take the party’s campaign to young voters through popular social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.

Read also: Capt speak: 2017 elections will be fought on future of Punjab

Other than flagging issues, policies and poll promises of the party, the war-room will also monitor the flow of news and prepare political inputs and reactions to take on opponents on the social media.

Other than political scions—Amarinder’s grandson Nirvan Singh, who works for a Delhi-based firm, Rep India, and MLA Kewal Dhillon’s son Karan Dhillon—Amarinder said Sadhvi Khosla, who was a volunteer for Modi in his 2014 poll campaign and hails from Amarinder’s hometown Patiala, would oversee the party’s social media campaign.

When contacted, Khosla said, “The Akali Dal is not a threat but young voters are confused between the AAP and Congress. It will be a youth-centric and positive social media campaign to know what the youth wants and how the Congress can deliver. To counter the AAP, we will also highlight how the Kejriwal government has created a mess in Delhi.”

Interestingly, the war-room will not be housed in the Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh but at the office of the Dhillons. “We are putting up computers, LCDs and other gadgets in the war-room to run our social media campaign. We will engage volunteers from each district for the campaign. I will personally oversee its functioning,” Amarinder told HT.

The party has been forced to “virtually” shed its old election strategies to combat Arvind Kejriwal’s party, which is mopping up crowds, funds and supporters through social media. The AAP has already set up its social media war-room comprising youth from Ivy-league universities, such as Stanford, Oxford and Cambridge, besides top company honchos, who are fine-tuning its poll strategy for Punjab, along with Kejriwal’s team in New Delhi.

Prashant Kishor to visit Punjab soon: Capt

Even as Amarinder’s own hi-tech war-room will manage his social media campaign, he is keen on engaging Prashant Kishor — the man, he says, has the Midas touch — for the overall management of his 2017 poll campaign. “I have had two meetings with Prashant. He is ready to strategise for us and will visit Punjab soon for a quick assessment of the ground situation. But, whether he will work for us in Punjab will be decided by Rahul Gandhi as a few other states, including Uttar Pradesh, will go to the polls along with ours,” Amarinder said.