New Delhi: After successful completion of over 60 virtual rallies in several states, the BJP is now gearing up to digitally fight the Bihar assembly elections scheduled later this year.
The party has appointed 9,500 IT cell heads at each shakti kendra in Bihar, who will be crucial in spreading BJP’s political messages to the people.
These 9,500 IT cell heads will be the real warriors of Bihar’s virtual election campaign, said a BJP leader, requesting anonymity.
Besides these IT cell heads, the BJP is also gearing up to form 72,000 WhatsApp groups for each booth so that voters can be informed about the party’s initiatives and messages ahead of the elections. In the last two months, the party has formed 50,000 WhatsApp groups.
Through these WhatsApp groups, the party will build the narrative, share videos of speeches of BJP leaders, and the party’s messages in real time.
These WhatsApp groups will be managed by booth-level workers and all the IT cell heads will work under the BJP’s national IT cell head Amit Malviya.
The BJP leader mentioned above told ThePrint the appointment of 9,500 IT cell heads came after a meeting between the party high command and state unit president Sanjay Jaiswal in May.
In Bihar, there are around 5,500 mandals, 9,500 shakti kendras and 72,000 booths. Each shakti kendra has at least 6-7 booths.
“Since it is clear that election campaigning in this assembly election will be different from traditional ones, we are enhancing our digital infrastructure in a massive way to reach out to people. The BJP has been the pioneer in using technology in election campaigning from the beginning — whether it was (former PM Atal Vihari) Vajpayee’s pre-recorded phone message way back in 2004 or using 3D van technology and the missed call experiment in 2014, we are trend-setters,” said the BJP leader.
“Due to the limitations of Covid, we will have to prepare ourselves to use technology in a massive way this time,” added the leader.
WhatsApp groups to connect with 2 crore voters
Explaining the party’s campaigning, the BJP leader told ThePrint mandal IT cell heads will disseminate information, rally videos and speeches to shakti kendra IT cell heads first and then to the booth level.
But, he added, the most important tool in this digital campaigning will be the WhatsApp groups through which the party aims to connect to 2 crore people.
In every WhatsApp group, 256 members can be added. So, in this way, the party can reach out to 2 crore people at the click of a button, the leader said.
Bihar BJP IT cell head Manan Krishnan told ThePrint: “This structure has been created in addition to booth pramukh (head) and shakti kendra pramukh. Since information technology has been one of most important instruments in political messaging and creating a narrative, we will have young, tech-savvy people from the grassroots in these groups. Many of our IT heads have even taken zoom licence to prepare for the digital campaigning.”
Another member of the state IT cell said managing WhatsApp groups is a mammoth exercise and it is more difficult than creating physical infrastructure.
“Due to restrictions by WhatsApp in forwarding messages to five people only at a time, we have to create more groups to forward real-time information. Imagine, if we have the capacity to reach 2-3 crore people in one go, we don’t require TV, newspapers and other media to reach people,” he added.
3D vans may be back for campaigning
During his virtual rally on 7 June, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said Bihar has moved from “lalten raj” to “LED raj” under the Nitish Kumar government.
His speech was live-streamed via LEDs at all the 72,000 booths across the state.
In 2014, Shah, who was then the BJP general secretary and in-charge of UP, had told a few journalists that he managed to connect with people in the remotest parts of UP through the help of 3D vans where even newspapers and TV have no presence.
These vans were equipped with 3D projection systems, which screened PM Modi’s rallies live. These vans may make a comeback ahead of the Bihar polls.
“If big rallies don’t not take place, then we will use 3D vans in villages where speeches of PM Modi and Shah could be broadcast. We can reach people in a more economical way through using LEDs, phones and 3D vans,” said a second BJP leader.