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HomePoliticsMaharashtra BJP turns to citizen journalism, takes YouTube-Facebook route to help cyclone-hit

Maharashtra BJP turns to citizen journalism, takes YouTube-Facebook route to help cyclone-hit

‘The Fifth Pillar’, comprising a YouTube channel and Facebook page, aims to showcase first-person stories of all those who have suffered losses but haven’t received state help.

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Mumbai: In the aftermath of Cyclone Tauktae, which ravaged parts of Maharashtra’s Konkan region, the state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unit has stepped up political activity on the ground. This time, the opposition party has turned to the concept of citizen journalism and assumed the role of a publisher and broadcaster.

The state BJP has launched a platform, ‘The Fifth Pillar’ — comprising a YouTube channel and Facebook page — to showcase first-person stories of all those who have suffered economic losses due to the cyclone, but haven’t received the state government’s help.

The page description on Facebook as well as YouTube does not mention the BJP, but calls it a “platform of all of us” and a “strong pillar of all the constructive efforts of the society”.

BJP state spokesperson Keshav Upadhye told ThePrint, “There are people who have suffered losses due to the cyclone, but haven’t received the government’s attention. Then there are those for whom the panchanamas of their loss has not yet been done, and there are some in whose case a panchanama has been done, but the assessment of the loss is inaccurate.”

He added, “We are asking all such persons to record a first-person video and share it along with the description of their grievance and photos of the losses to a WhatsApp number being handled by our team. We will upload these photos and videos on The Fifth Pillar pages.”

In the message with which the party circulated the WhatsApp number for people to send their footage, the BJP has particularly appealed to record first-person videos to stick to the concept of citizen journalism. It has also asked people to avoid any political comment or criticism.

The concept was launched after former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, currently the leader of opposition, visited the districts of Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg to assess the losses caused by the cyclone over three days.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray too visited the three districts on 21 May.

While the BJP criticised Thackeray for wrapping up his visit to cyclone-affected districts in three hours, the MVA parties hit back at the BJP for Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipping Maharashtra and only focusing on Gujarat in his tour of cyclone-affected areas. Thackeray also criticised Modi for only conducting an aerial survey.

Also read: Antarctica is headed for a climate tipping point by 2060, with catastrophic melting

Platform helps bridge gap in media coverage, BJP leaders say

Even as the BJP officially maintains that there is no political agenda behind its platform, party leaders say there are certain obvious political benefits.

“A considerable section of the local Marathi language media in Maharashtra is close to the MVA. When the BJP was in power, even small protests against the government in different parts of the state would be highlighted. That’s not the case anymore,” said a BJP leader close to opposition leader Fadnavis.

“Even after the cyclone, there haven’t been too many ground reports by the media on the losses on ground and whether the government has been able to help. A platform like The Fifth Pillar helps us fill that gap,” he added.

Another state BJP functionary said that helping people voice their grievances aids the party build a database of all such persons and directly canvass among them.

“Also, the information is entirely in public domain for everyone to see. So, no one can say that the BJP is getting some information and conveying something else,” he added.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

Also read: Prepare for worst-case scenario, NDRF chief tells Bengal & Odisha govt as Cyclone Yaas brews


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