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2024 LS elections will be fought on mobiles: Chetan Bragta, BJP social media strategist, Himachal Pradesh

15-November-2017
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2024 LS elections will be fought on mobiles: Chetan Bragta, BJP social media strategist, Himachal Pradesh

The reach of Social Media is such that even the most powerful political parties want to use it to connect with the aam janta. That the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) had long ago realised the potential of social media and used  to their benefit is no secret.

On recent completion of elections in Himachal Pradesh, exchange4media spoke to Chetan Bragta, Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), Social Media (in-charge) who also spearheaded the BJP’s social media campaign during the state elections.

Bragta, who earlier had a flourishing career as a banker, during this exclusive conversation spoke about BJP’s social media strategy, fake trends, setting agendas and other key points used by the party to be a dominant player in the digital sphere. Edited excerpts.

How important is social media for political parties today?

Look at the penetration of mobile phones! Usage of data is exponentially increasing, Facebook is changing its algorithms, and even Twitter wants everyone to use videos more. There is a transition happening.

In 2008, when I joined Facebook it was all about status, then came photos...everyone started putting images...now is the time for videos. So my own experience says that 2024 elections will be fought on mobiles, you can mark my words. Prem Kumar Dhumalji and everyone else in BJP till booth level, our Karyakartas, all are on social media. It is very easy to communicate.

Even our veteran leaders are tech savy. Dhumal ji operates his WhatsApp account on his own. He takes feedback from Twitter and Facebook.  We also did a campaign called train the trainer, conventions were organised where leaders till Mandal level came and we trained them.

What is the biggest take-away from leading the social media team in BJP?

Himachal Pradesh is the only state in India which has successfully installed WhatsApp groups for almost every polling booth. Amit Shahji gave us the target to cover around 7500 booths. It was a big target for us. We started in May and just before elections we had covered around 7000 groups. So we had that modus operandi of how to circulate information from top to bottom and take feedback from booth level to higher level.

The whole take away from the social media campaign in Himachal Pradesh is related to the WhatsApp groups that we created. I will say this proudly that we created WhatsApp groups in areas bordering China where there are signal issues and these groups will be used actively in the upcoming elections in 2019, 2022 and even in 2024.

What are your comments on the Congress party’s social media performance?

Congress party made the biggest mistake by not focusing on social media; they concentrated on that only in the last one month. In one month you can’t do anything on social media, no matter how much money you spend. We started building our infrastructure in January 2017 and kept in mind that 2019 was also round the corner, our objective was to create an infrastructure that could go on till 2022 and even 2024.

We had nothing to do with Congress Party. They were not even in the league. Their biggest mistake was the strategy and the elections results will prove it that negative campaigns don’t work in Himachal Pradesh. Congress Party’s situation is so poor that we could never understand which one is their official Twitter handle.  Social media can only supplement and complement, it cannot be the main weapon. It can only support you but you will have to work on ground, which probably Rahul Gandhi will never learn.

What was your strategy for the elections and how did you use trends on social media?

When code of conduct came into play we posted more of positive content for instance BJP’s vision, its manifesto and what all BJP did from 1998-2003 and then 2007-2012, when we had formed the government. And we started building up the creative material to send across complicated things in a simple manner.

Also, mainstream media only bash the Modi government; recently, a newspaper did the same without even taking a comment from us. Social Media allows us to voice our side. In Himachal Pradesh for the first time, our five-six trends were the top trends in India.

#Modi4Development, #Congress10SeKum, #ModiDhumal4Vikas, #ModiDhumalDoubleEngine, #ModiPMDhumalCM, were all top trends in India. Sometimes we had more than one as top trends.

Before the Code of Conduct came into play, we posted everything negative about the Congress party. Like what they promised and what they couldn’t deliver.

So they are manufactured trends, how do they help?

We set the agenda but there so much positivity because of the Modiji and Dhumalji that even general public use to join us in these trends. You have to understand it, people join us.  Everything we did was 100% organic. No money at all was used. We didn’t do anything hanky-panky, like the Congress party.

I can on record challenge to prove me wrong. I will quit politics if anyone can prove that the 55 thousand followers on BJP Himachal Pradesh Twitter handle are not organic.

What will be your next agenda on social media?

I want to use social media in Himachal Pradesh in two ways now. One, for taking feedback of problems that youth, women and our volunteers are facing in the state. Second, obviously, BJP in Himachal is known for Road, Electricity and Water so the better we perform now, we will propagate it and advertise our work.

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