Impressed by the tremendous political benefits reaped by BJP and AAP due to high-voltage social media and high-end digital campaigning in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Delhi assembly elections, Bihar parties too are eagerly jumping on to the e-bandwagon.All the major parties - Janata Dal -United (JD-U), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Hindustani Awam Morcha - are making efforts to make their presence felt on the net for the forthcoming Bihar election. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also expected to shift its well oiled cyber machine to Bihar soon. From interactive graphical representation of the work done by their parties and making promises on Facebook to sending interactive and informative messages on WhatsApp, they are doing it all to woo voters.
"It's the best way to engage the youth and first time voters. We have set up a 'war room' to ensure that we remain ahead of our rivals in digital campaigning," K.C Tyagi, chief spokesperson of JD-U, told IANS over phone. "We have seen how Prime Minister Narendra Modi quite effectively used the social media and high-tech campaigning in the 2014 elections to ride to power at the centre," he added. According to Bihar's information and technology department, an estimated 5 lakh out of the state's total population of 110 million use the internet on computers while 20 to 30 million use it on mobile phones. Tyagi says the 2014 general elections changed the way elections were fought in India. Although the tech-savvy campaign brought rich dividents for the BJP, he says it also raised the overall cost of fighting elections. Abdul Bari Siddiqui of RJD, who is also leader of the opposition in the Bihar assembly, says that although the reach of social media among Bihar's population was limited, yet one cannot "deny it's positive and long-lasting effect on the public mind."
Talking on the phone, Siddiqui said digital campaigning involved hiring of tech experts, setting up of media rooms and manning them round-the-clock. Under the JD-U's 'war room' strategy, 400 trucks equipped with TV sets, music systems, microphones and speakers will move from village to village and showcase the government's achievements. The personnel manning these vehicles will also interact with villagers and their local representatives to get their ideas and suggestions for Bihar's development in future. Flash mobs and street plays are also being planned by JD-U to gain the support of the younger generation, which is expected to play a crucial role in the legislative elections expected to be held in September or October this year. Parties opposed to the JD-U have started Facebook pages to engage people on the social media in the run-up to the polls. So apart from the traditional methods like high-pitch sloganeering, colourful buntings, posters and large hoardings to grab the eyeballs of the Bihar electorate, e-campaigning will add more punch to the campaigning by political parties aiming to win a majority in the state assembly.