Delhi politicians network online with voters

politiciansNEW DELHI: Have you already got a friend request on Facebook from your local MLA? If not, you may soon get one. Perhaps a tweet, too, wishing you on your birthday or wedding anniversary.

For the first time ever, aspiring and sitting MLAs in Delhi have taken to the social media to reach out to voters. They have, in fact, tied up with public relations companies to do the job for them. These executives not only maintain the profiles of the netas but also wish people on their birthdays and anniversaries on their behalf. Depending on the package they take, these companies ensure that thousands are added to their friends list with the additional bonus of RWAs being tagged.

“In the last polls, we were conducting door-to-door surveys but this time political parties are sharpening the newest arrow in their campaign quiver: digital outreach. From sentiment analysis to mobilizing online support, we are doing everything,” says Achal Sharma of Goldstar Communications. At present, his company is looking after 11 candidates, including almost all Akali ticket-seekers.

Some are even uploading family photos to give that ‘personal’ touch to their profiles. “To ensure that the page we create is the authentic one, family photos are also added. We make it a point to post a reply on every comment,” says Sahil Jasuja of A& M Tech Solutions, presently handling more than 10 such accounts.

Online surveys through social networking sites have in fact helped many politicians know their current position in the poll race. “For Dwarka MLA Prathuman Rajput, there was a negative response. It turned out that water being a huge problem in his constituency, he was losing popularity. He held interactive sessions on Twitter and people were assured that efforts were on to tackle the problem. His statuses were updated with each effort made. Also, videos of him raising the issue in assembly were uploaded Now, we are waiting for another poll survey for him,” says Sharma.

But all this doesn’t come cheap. Most have roped in the companies for almost a year and have been paying them on monthly basis. “The charges depend on the packages. Facebook with Twitter comes between Rs 25,000-40,000, if you add Youtube it’s more expensive. Also it depends on the size of the constituency,” says Jasuja.

Political parties are providing in-house training. “It’s been a while that training is being given to introduce politicians to social networking sites Apart from rallies, rath yatras, print ads, posters and pamphlets, digital outreach is very important if we are to tap the youth. From young to the old, everyone is logged on to these sites,” says Arvind Gupta, BJP IT cell head.