Hyderabad: Having a social media campaign has become crucial for political parties in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Elections given a ten-day campaign period amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With the process for filing nominations having ended on Friday evening, contestants and their supporters hit the road for campaigning while their social media war rooms further online campaigns.
The polling for 150 GHMC divisions will be held on December 1 and the results for the elections will be declared on December 4. The elected corporates will elect a mayor, a role which has been reserved for a woman candidate this time.
All the key political parties – AIMIM, BJP, Congress and TRS – have roped in social media teams by division to woo their voters. Sources say that tens of contestants have hired political consultants to oversee their digital campaigns.
The TRS has indicated that its main opponent will be the BJP and ruling party leaders and their social media posts are targeting the politics of saffron party. For instance, many social media posts of the TRS, with pictures of Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao and minister K. Taraka Rama Rao, particularly target the religious “hate politics” of the BJP.
The BJP is steering its traditional hindutva agenda among WhatsApp groups while pointing out the “friendship” between the TRS and AIMIM. The two parties are contesting separately in the elections and have ruled out a “secret” alliance between them.
The TRS’ social media teams have said that they will record testimonies of over 10,000 people highlighting development in their areas to counter the narrative of their opponents.
While the TRS says that it is focussing on developmental projects taken up over the past six years, the BJP is bombarding its WhatsApp groups with claims that ‘Hindus will be persecuted if TRS-MIM wins in the GHMC elections.’
“Do you want peaceful Hyderabad or a Hyderabad with curfews,” reads a digital poster of the TRS. The Congress is using the hashtag #SayNoToHate to target the BJP.
“Social media campaign will have a major impact on the results in these elections as many families in Hyderabad have two smartphones in their homes,” said Ketan, a resident of Malakpet. A TRS supporter, he says that the BJP’s social media campaign helped the party in winning the recent Dubbak bypolls.
AIMIM, Congress and TDP have roped in their supporters for intensifying their social media campaigns in divisions where they have a stronghold.
According to local newspaper reports, political parties have a database of 30,000 phone numbers of voters from each division.
“The political consultants will maintain 10 to 15 pages for contesting candidates and devise posts as per the strategies of their parties while targeting the opponents,” said Rajesh, a political consultant. He added that the consultancies are tasked with conducting ward-wise surveys to assess the chances of the candidates.
According to a report, youngsters are hired to create and operate social media pages on Facebook and Twitter while YouTube channels are paid between Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 per day for promoting candidates. Observers estimated that about one lakh volunteers from political parties participate in the social media campaign in these elections.
The BJP has set up a social media war room at its headquarters in Hyderabad. “BJP supporters and volunteers from 150 divisions were called for a closed meeting this week to discuss the social media campaign strategies. We are tasked with highlighting the failed promises of TRS and to find out and lure dissident candidates from other parties,” said a BJP volunteer on the condition of anonymity.
A total of 74,04,770 voters will participate in the elections, including 38,56,770 men, 35,46,847 women and 669 from transgender categories.
In the previous elections in 2016, the ruling Telangana Rasthra Samithi (TRS) won in 99 wards or divisions while All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) won in 44 wards. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won in four wards leaving two for the Congress and one seat for Telugu Desam Party (TDP). The TDP corporator later joined the ruling TRS.