In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP including its Prime Minister candidate Narendra Modi had upped its social media game which included a 14.86 percent increase in Modi’s Facebook fan base in little over a month. Besides this, the Modi related engagements also hit a record of over 15 lakh during the period of 19th April to 18th May 2014, when the election process was in full swing.
In a sharp contrast, the Congress’ social media strategy lacked vigour, which was signified by the absence of Rahul Gandhi, who didn’t even have a twitter account before 2015. The subsequent launch of Rahul on twitter too came with a caveat of it being a press release module from Rahul Gandhi’s office, and not really a personal account. Back in 2013 the Congress had realised that it was failing in the social media game but could do precious little, to stop the ship from sinking.
Come 2017 the party though finally looked like rectifying its mistakes with the appointment of actress Divya Spandana as its social media head in May of that year. She was hailed as a harbinger for the Congress party’s social fortunes and soon started getting praised for carrying out a so-called “resurgence” of the party.
Behind all the media paparazzi though, things weren’t straightforward. The Congress was being repeatedly trolled for silly gaffes like bringing back Indira Gandhi from the dead to give her credit for a bridge inauguration and killing Raja Ram Mohan Roy before he was born. Also, the social media outreach which also involves setting up a data analytics department has been criticised by the BJP which claims it to be a mirror image of its own strategy.
Things though weren’t limited to gaffes and both Divya Spandana and Rahul Gandhi were caught spreading outright lies oTwitterer. Besides this, Spandana was accused of asking her party workers to create multiple accounts and Rahul was accused of taking the help of bots to get retweets.
Ever since the new social media strategy for the Congress party was launched, it has also shown an amusing level of ‘obsession’ with setting up twitter polls, which has quite a lot of times been a bad experience for the party. Like the polls styled under the #KnowYourLegacy campaign, which were supposed to glorify the Gandhi family ending up trolling them, when people ensured that the silliest option won. Some of the examples being, people voting for a donkey when asked about the animal which Nehru rode to reach Bhutan.
Even though the Congress was supposed to have become smart about social media, it failed to show enough dynamism to learn from its mistakes and again put up a poll today asking whether PM Modi would take action against Nirav Modi for defrauding Punjab National Bank. Whenever a political party puts up such polls, it is generally assumed that it is looking for a favourable result to attack its opponent, and in this case, the plan backfired with the voters showing confidence in PM Modi:
Just a day earlier, National Herald, the mouthpiece of the Congress party too tweeted polls which backfired: It though decided to brazen out things, by blocking influential Right Wing twitter users for preventing them from bringing the poll to their followers’ attention, but all in vain.
Based on the above facts, the Congress party in the past few years has had its before and after social media moments and both arguably have resulted in possibly monumental pitfalls. It has been well established that the lack of engagement prior to the Lok Sabha elections, resulted in a big negative for the party. After the party has indeed started to get in the game, it has allegedly tried to rig it to its advantage by spreading lies and misinformation in order to generate popular attention. When it tried to make things interesting via some polls, it ended up getting lampooned on.
Legacy wise comparing these two “eras” of the party, some might claim that the Congress party has been in a lose-lose situation in both ends: In the first case by being largely invisible to the public and in the second by making some people hope it wasn’t visible.