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Impact of social media making politicians go online

Friday, 21 March 2014 - 11:01am IST | Place: Kolkata | Agency: PTI

With the growing power of social media, politicians who had so far shied away from the digital medium are now increasingly interacting with the youth through Facebook and Twitter this election season.

It was only last week that the West Bengal committee of the CPI(M) launched their official Facebook page and Twitter handle to compete with the tech-savvy Trinamool Congress.
CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose said campaigning through the social media platform is an effective way to interact with common people as the party can answer their queries and even accept substantial criticism in a positive and timely manner.

Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee already has more than 650,000 'likes' on Facebook while the party's national spokesperson Derek O'Brien has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter. Besides this, the party has a regularly-updated website and accounts on both Twitter and Facebook to woo voters.

"As a regional party, we are far ahead of all others in West Bengal in terms of digital outreach. We focus on 360 degree communication and stay in touch with people by using all available platforms for communication - from street meetings to posters, stage events to electronic and print media. And now it has stretched to social media platforms too," Derek told PTI. He said the party will roll out special election material on the social media platforms next week.

With less than 8,000 'likes' on Facebook, West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee is lagging behind others in the number game. The state CPI(M) has more than 14,000 'likes' while Trinamool's official Facebook page is a close competitor with more than 13,000 'likes'.

The state BJP, also new to the social media, is going aggressive in the digital war.

In a short time, its Twitter page has more than 11,000 followers while on Facebook they have more than 14,000 likes'.

"We want to spread our message to everyone and in the urban seats, the digital medium is very important. All our 42 candidates from West Bengal will have Facebook accounts," BJP state secretary Ritesh Tiwari said.

Senior Congress leader Somen Mitra, in his seventies, also launched his Facebook and Twitter accounts last month to woo voters.

Updated on a day-to-day basis, he uses the medium to talk directly to voters on various issues of electoral significance.

Marxist leaders like former state minister Nirupam Sen, newly-nominated Rajya Sabha MP Ritabrata Banerjee and Rabin Deb are already active on Facebook.
Candidates from both Trinamool and CPI(M) are gradually opening up to face the virtual battle.

To maintain a vigil, the Election Commission has also issued detailed guidelines for political advertisements on such platforms that include obtaining certification for contents before putting them in the public domain.

The watchdog has also asked the social networking sites to maintain expenditure incurred by the political parties and individual candidates on advertisements so that they can be produced to the Commission when requested. 


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