Bengal Polls: Prashant Kishor takes hyperlocal route for Mamta Banerjee's digital campaign

The ‘Save yourself from BJP’ campaign has witnessed maximum participation with 14,35,963 people marking themselves 'safe'

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Feb 19, 2021 9:26 AM
Bengal elections

In just 10 days, the ‘Didir Doot’ app has reached more than 2 lakh downloads. The ‘Didir Doot’ application, launched in the first week of February, is a mobile app designed for the people of West Bengal to directly connect with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee through live streaming and video conference, and also people can write to her. With the high-voltage elections in Bengal just around the corner, Prashant Kishor is working his magic in the state with a massive push on digital initiatives. The Didir Doot app is just one of the many digital campaigns taking place in the state at the moment.

Kishor’s agency Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) assisting Trinamool Congress (TMC) since June 2019, has earlier smashed records strategizing for BJP in the 2012 Gujarat assembly elections and 2014 Lok Sabha elections. According to experts, this time I-PAC’s targeting is at a macro level on digital platforms. “When I-PAC assisted BJP, it was more about popularizing BJP and Modi on a national level but for Bengal, the approach is more hyperlocal. There is an initiative for each and every district and the whole campaign is way more integrated which is more result-focused without having to push budgets through the roof,” said a political expert.

Along with the party’s primary page on digital platforms, there are 23 new pages that have been created on these platforms, one for each of the state’s districts. “Each of these pages is not just packed with information but is actively used by senior political leaders to go live with voters, answer questions, and all other communications. There are also options for stories just like on other popular social media platforms to make the initiative more informative as well as interactive. The first-time voters and the new age voters are the primary users of these platforms,” said a senior resource at I-PAC.

In addition to the district pages, the primary pages of the party are also being heavily promoted by Kishore. For instance, between February 10  and February 16, 2021, the Banglar Gorbo Mamata page on Facebook by I-PAC has spent  Rs.1,191,943 on ads about social issues, elections, or politics turning out to be the top spenders from the state in the period. In fact, since February 2019 the page has spent as much as Rs. 22,873,480 on over 1000 ads.

Other interesting campaigns have also been created on Facebook by I-PAC for TMC. The ‘Save yourself from BJP’ is one such campaign where users are required to mark themselves safe on the page just like it is done after some calamity. The campaign that has witnessed maximum participation from the age group of 18-35 years has seen 14,35,963 people marking themselves safe.

“The upcoming 2021 Bengal Assembly election may be one of the most crucial battles for Mamta Banerjee, not only for West Bengal but also for her party to remain relevant in the country’s politics. The national party BJP has made big inroads in and now both the parties are fighting for the tech-savvy voter's mind space.  One-third of West Bengal’s 90-million population is now connected with smartphones. And sources on Facebook suggest that among the Indian states, one of the highest users are found in Bengal thus giving an impetus to churning out more fake content than ever before. No doubt the election narratives are being set on digital media,” said Anup Sharma, political commentator and independent communication consultant.

Alogside the various digital campaigns, creating trends have also been a popular choice for Kishore in Bengal. “The agency is also working at creating trending hashtags that not only push political messages but also used for criticizing the opponent. These hashtags are made to organically trend by getting senior leaders to tweet the hashtags,” said another political campaign expert.

The #DilipGhoshInsultsMaaDurga for instance trended for over 2 days when a senior BJP leader made offhand remarks about Goddess Durga at a media summit.

But does this digital extravaganza by the party also promise votes?

As per the trends seen and past or legacy data, social media and digital initiatives do account for the influence of two categories of voters – (a) it reinforces the grassroot level party worker communication who need efficacious messaging for his door to door and “Para” (neighbourhood) and  [b] it tends to influence the voting behaviour of about 2-4% of the “Floating Voter” in the electorate – the fence-sitting voter who is unable to make up his mind till the last moments of the campaign. Beyond that, much of the digital campaign is about message reinforcement, content for public debates, and neighbourhood discussions. The core voter [many of whom would have downloaded the apps of their respective chosen parties) is already a done deal. It is always to target the swing vote at any and every cost,” explained Sudeep Sengupta, communication strategist and PCE specialist, Aegean Strategy.                                                                                                                                       

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