Changing face of election campaignAs the poll campaign intensifies, social media platforms have become handy tools for political parties and their leaders to reach out to voters.
The fact that Daman Nath Dhungana opened his Twitter account after he was named a Nepali Congress candidate for Bhaktapur-2 shows how vital social media platforms have become.
Both the emerging Bibeksheel Sajha and established parties CPN-UML, NC and Maoist Centre are campaigning aggressively on social media, setting up dedicated teams at the centre as well as in the districts.
The teams do multiple jobs, from monitoring cyberspace, promoting party/candidates, election agendas and increasing their reach. Besides, parties are also seen using social and digital media as propaganda tools against rival forces and candidates.
Bibeksheel Sajha and the UML have been most active in the digital campaign. The verified Facebook account of the UML has 324,938 likes.
“The party is moving with the time. This is why we focus significantly on social and digital media,” UML leader Bishnu Rimal said. The party, which had used pamphlets and posters as the major election tool in 1991, opted for radio in the subsequent polls. In the first Constituent Assembly elections, advertising on television and newspapers was prominent. The use of social and digital media became popular since the second CA poll, according to Rimal.
Bibeksheel Sajha Party, a new force in Nepal’s political landscape, is another party that focuses heavily on the digital medium of promotion. The party updates its official Twitter handle as well as those of its candidates daily with videos and photos of meetings with voters.
Party Spokesperson Ramesh Poudel told the Post that it has a team of 27 people managing their presence online. “Campaign via social media and digital medium has been productive for us,” Poudel said, adding that the medium has made it easier for the party to take its agenda to the people and to introduce the candidates. For more impact, the team also has content developers for the target audience.
The ruling NC too has increased its digital presence with top leaders posting on Twitter regularly. The verified Facebook account of the NC has 132,757 likes. It contains publicity materials, infographics and event updates. NC leader Prakash Sharan Mahat said the party has mobilised technical staff to promote the party and its candidates on social media.
Prem Raj Joshi, joint general secretary of the NC-aligned Nepal Student Union, said the party has a central coordination committee for digital interaction at the headquarters in Sanepa while media centres are operational in all the seven provinces. The student wing also independently runs its page called Youth Congress Nepal.
However, the NC’s digital push seems to be weak compared to the UML.
“Parties should not engage in propaganda on the digital platform as it has a wider reach and can mislead people,” said Joshi.
Though not as organised as the UML, the Maoist Centre is also highly visible on the web. The official Twitter handle of Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, as well as a few other leaders, has become active.
- On Thursday, both the Twitter handle and Facebook page of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba were active, posting photos of his mass meeting in Dadeldhura.
- The left alliance on Wednesday evening broadcast on Facebook Live its joint press conference where CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli and CPN (Maoist Centre) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal lashed out at the government for a series of attacks on their candidates.
- Nepali Congress youth leader Gagan Thapa’s first election campaign for this poll was live on Facebook.