BJP, Cong Workers expected to be conversant with Facebook, Twitter, blogs ahead of polls
archana srivastava 
[email protected]
Lucknow, 4 October
While the Congress and the BJP are engaged on questions of secularism, communalism, development, non-development and so on at the national level, an exercise of a different kind  is taking place in the Uttar Pradesh units of both parties.
This exercise relates to social media and the honing of the party workers’ skill in this medium. A concerted exercise is underway at  the state-headquarters of both the parties on this count. Facebook, Twitter, blogging sites which the state leadership expects the workers to be conversant with in the run-up to elections 2014. Of the nearly 13 crore voters in UP, around 30 per cent in some way or the other access social media.
The BJP has its ‘Mission 272 Plus’ clearly cut out for it. UP is expected to play a vital role in notching up the required numbers. The party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s emphasis on social networking is well-known, but the ‘networking bug’ has still not struck many leaders and members of the saffron brigade, accustomed as they have been to sending lengthy press notes.
While some have become active on Facebook, Twitter etc, party insiders say these accounts are mostly handled by their private secretaries. State president Laxmikant Bajpai has already issued directives to the media in-charges and spokesmen to place the party’s point of view strongly and effectively before the electorate through print, electronic and  the social networking sites.Workshops are now being held for the media in-charges and others right down to the district level.
The emphasis currently is to engage the youth of Varanasi, Allahabad, Lucknow, Kanpur, Bareilly, Agra, Gorakhpur and Ghaziabad with the party through social networking. Says BJP spokesman  Vijay Pathak: "We are trying to ensure that interaction through social media becomes a habit, because if you establish a conversation the confusion will end by itself. The party’s stand on all issues is very clear, there is no deviation or diversion on this. We have told the partymen to keep a eye on all happenings and record their reaction at the earliest." It is not only reactions. Questions pertaining to the saffron party’s ideology, issues raised by other parties regarding its programmes and policies will get a prompt response.
The Congress is also working in this direction, though its speed appears tardy. As a first step the party has rechristened the media department as the ‘Communication department’ in keeping with the directives of vice president Rahul Gandhi following a five-day media training programme held recently in Delhi. The UP unit followed it up by holding a similar training programme for district level office bearers and workers at the Ravindralaya here.
Says Mr Akhilesh Singh, MLA from Rudrapur, who is active on Facebook and Twitter: "Our aim is to reach the maximum number of people and tell them the truth. If in half an hour the BJP can spread the rumour about Ganeshji drinking milk, the Congress has to arm itself strongly to dispel such talk. Social networking is an effective tool to do this."