A sizzling hot cyber war is being fought by Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the three main contenders in Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections to be held on February 4.
All the three parties have pressed into service, hired information technology (IT) professionals or volunteers to carry on with the fight which caught momentum only a year ago when SAD launched its campaign on the internet. Congress’ hired IT professionals are engaged in the cyber campaign for over the last 3 years. Congress has spent several crores of rupees on its campaign handled by Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC) owned by strategist Prashant Kishore.
Team IPAC spokesman says that the weekly reach of Congress page on facebook is near 13 lakh. He explains that the reach of AAP page will be more as they are targeting the entire world while Captain’s page is personality centric and focuses only on Punjab.
SAD’s cyber team of volunteers is headed by Manjinder Singh Sirsa and Amanjot Singh. They maintain that the weekly reach of facebook page of Sukhbir Singh Badal is 95 lakh. The party is not spending any money on the campaign except the internet charges.
Web campaign of the AAP is being handled by a team of volunteers headed by Abhinav Bhudhiraja and Pulkit Sharma. According to AAP volunteers, the party’s facebook page has a reach of 1 crore visitors per week from all over the world but mainly from Punjab. AAP has put the entire content in Punjabi while that of Congress is mainly in Punjabi and but also in English.
The SAD has multiple face-book pages which are run independently by all ministers and MLA’s at their personal expense. The facebook page of SAD managed from Chandigarh has a reach of about 60 lakh visitors says Amanjot Singh.
He explains that their content relates to the developmental works carried out by SAD-BJP government over the last 10 years. The publicity content is focused on party and not any single person. He alleges that AAP IT workers spread lies and try to sensationalise events, whereas SAD’s cyber team follows the truth.
AAP cyber war is propelled by the volunteers at no cost except the internet charges, claims Pulkit Sharma. There are only 12 members of the team who run social media campaign for 24 hours a day.
A visit to the facebook pages of the each party provides different tastes. Admittedly, AAP page is crispy and sensational while that of the SAD is sober and low key affair. Congress page is Captain centric and does not talk about the Congress party. The variety in the content of Congress page is sparse as it repeatedly talks about Captain.
Team IPAC maintains that they were targeting the young population of voters in Punjab who form a majority of electorate. Its visitors are between the age group of 18 to 35 years. They allege that SAD page is not attracting youngsters as it is not a happening page.
Amanjot admits that the party woke up to the cyber campaign somewhat late and others took the lead. But as each minister and MLA has personally managed, specific pages, the campaign gets going at micro level catering to each constituency unlike the pages of AAP and Congress which do not take the netizens to micro level of discussing their problems. The social media campaign on twitter, youtube, instagram and googleplus were not taken into account while writing this report.