Once dreaded for promoting stone-pelting, social media has become the new tool for the political parties to reach out to the people for votes in Jammu and Kashmir.
Omar Abdullah's National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti's People's Democratic Party (PDP) have gone whole hog on the social media to garner support for the upcoming polls.
Facebook and Twitter pages of both the parties are abuzz with live feeds, live streams, comments and party policies in a bid to woo voters, mostly youth. "If you realize most of our cadres are youngsters. Youth are quite active on Facebook and other social media. Therefore we are taking Facebook seriously," Naeem Akthar, chief spokesman of PDP, told dna.
PDP has 1,045 followers on the Twitter page and it is following none. It has posted 1,341 tweets so far and most of them have been related to elections. On its official Facebook page, PDP has 3,089 likes and 972 people have been talking about it.
"Response is quite good. If likes and comments would have been the votes, the PDP would have won hands down," said Akthar.
National Conference on the other side has pioneered the art of using social media platforms for public outreach. From Omar Abdullah's now-shelved blog to Twitter handle, the J&K chief minister has been using the social media to the hilt.
Come elections, the grand old party is emulating Omar to become active on the social media. The party has 1,792 followers on the Twitter and it is following only one person. The party has posted 1,591 tweets so far.
"We have put a dedicated team in our media cell for the social media. We have started live tweet proceedings. We plan to continue this trend even after the elections. We will be accessible to the people on the social media platforms," said Junaid Mattoo, spokesman of the NC.
National Conference and Congress alliance are contesting three seats each in Jammu and Kashmir. While NC is contesting all the three seats of the Valley, the Congress has fielded candidates on two Jammu seats and lone Ladakh seat. PDP has announced candidates for five seats of Jammu and the valley so far.
Using social media for support has come four years after the "Facebook Jihad" — the term used to spread anti-India propaganda and mobilize public opinion — gave the security forces sleepless nights in the restive Valley.
Hundreds of pages and users had come up on the Facebook to preach separatism and succession in 2010. Police later launched a crackdown and arrested several youth who were operating Facebook pages to unleash separatist propaganda and provoke people for protests which often turned violent and led to the casualties.