With the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections fast approaching, political parties have initiated the process of targeting each other on social media. The Congress, which recently appointed Raj Babbar to head its electoral campaign in Uttar Pradesh, has begun attacking the incumbent Samajwadi Party (SP) government through the hashtag “27 Saal UP Behaal.”
The slogan is significant as it does not merely point fingers at UP CM Akhilesh Yadav’s government but instead indicates that previous governments led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also failed to deliver.
The BJP which is considered to be an effective user of social media platforms has also utilized hashtags like “10 Saal UP Behaal” to criticize its competitors. Having bagged over 70 seats from Uttar Pradesh during the 2014 General Elections, the BJP would certainly leave no stone unturned to push others on the back foot as far as the war on social media is concerned.
However, the Information & Public Relation Department of the Uttar Pradesh Government appears to be working overtime to fine tune the image of the government before the elections. In a series of advertisements, the department has made a bold attempt at projecting the achievements of Yadav’s government. Countering Congress’ charge of “27 Saal UP Behaal”, an advertisement published by UP government claimed that “Bijli ke liye jo na hua pichle chalees varsho mein usse bhi adhik kar dikhaya humne char varsho mein (SP government did for electricity in four years what could not be done in forty years.)”
The government proudly boasted that there was 24 hour electricity supply in the KAVAL towns of Kapur, Agra, Varanasi, Allahabad and Lucknow. It also said that availability of electricity in other areas had gone up and was somewhere between 14-20 hours. In a clear attempt of taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, the Uttar Pradesh government published an ad advocating the notion of “Clean UP, Green UP.”
The advertisement projected the state as “Umeedon Ka Pradesh (State of aspirations)” and carried a scanned copy of the certificate awarded to it by Guinness Book of World Records for undertaking the “largest distribution of saplings across multiple locations” on November 7, 2015.
In yet another advertisement, the government publicized the award of “Best Indian State in empowering youth through skill development” which was bestowed on it by Europe-India Foundation for Excellence. Through such publicity, the SP government is cleverly trying to appropriate initiatives largely aligned with the agenda of the central government.
It somehow tends to present the impression that Yadav has been more successful at spearheading skill development and green endeavours than Modi. That is precisely why slogans like “Sarvashreshtha Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh” are being published next to an image of Yadav who is all set to be the face of SP in 2017.
While Yadav’s government was sharply attacked on social media through the slogan “Jhoothe the inke vaade, khooni hain naye iraade (their promises were lies, their intentions are bloodthirsty),” they chose to negate the charge by publishing an advertisement on the inauguration of an RTI Bhawan in Lucknow. The said advertisement spoke of the government fulfilling the promises made to the people with the slogan “Janta ki seva mein samarpit har dum, ummedon pe khare utre hai hum (Always committed to the service of the people, we have not let the people down).”
Though Samajwadi Party is often accused of Muslim appeasement with their supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav referred to as “Maulana Mulayam”, this time around the SP government is trying to strike a balance between Hindus and Muslims. While on one hand the government is making efforts to reach out to the Muslims by printing advertisements in Urdu, Hindu sensibilities are also being taken care of.
An advertisement published by UP government last month talked about the cleaning of holy rivers and making Gangajal available on the banks of river Yamuna in Vrindavan, among other things.
With over 400 seats up for grabs in the Assembly Elections next year, one can only expect the information war to intensify in UP as political parties go all out to woo voters in a state dominated by complex caste and community arithmetic.