Panaji, Oct 20 (IANS) Battered and bruised on the social media by a more organised and clinically concerted campaign by the BJP's fans and friends, the Goa Congress now plans its own fightback.
The party here has organised a string of workshops for its specially-selected young cadre across the state, where IT specialists from the party's media wing would teach them techniques on how to boost the Congress' presence online and ways and means of making it count.
Yogesh Kerkar, who runs a computer showroom, heads the party's initiative in the state, claims that there is a lot of ground to make up because Congress has virtually "little or no presence" online currently and is miles behind BJP's mean social media machine.
"What we are trying to do is get numbers first. Most youngsters are already armed with smartphones. What we have to do is channelise this power. Our programme will also involve dissemination of authentic information about Congress schemes as well as its position on critical issues, which will then be broadcast online through our members," Kerkar told IANS.
The Congress' social media thrust was first articulated by All India Congress Committee (AICC) media and communication cell in-charge Ajay Maken some months back. Maken underlined the importance of the virtual space as a key influencing area in which the party had to assert itself.
Congress general secretary in-charge of Goa Digvijaya Singh, during a recent visit to Goa, had also exhorted the state Congress committee members to take to the social media to counter the negative campaign against the party by its chief rival.
"I must be the most criticized person on the social media, but that does not mean I do not know how important the social media is to politics of today," asked Digvijaya Singh, whose quirky Twitter updates often end up making news headlines - if they do not end up as topics of animated discussion.
Kerkar also claimed that the BJP is playing tricks like creating hundreds of dummy Facebook profiles.
"There are hundreds of profiles which are fake, but the sheer volumes makes Facebookers think that the BJP is all over the social media. Look at the last elections. There were so many groups floated by BJP's supporters. But after the elections, many of these groups are now abandoned," Kerkar pointed out.
Goa's Facebook battleground has a dozen-odd groups, some of which are hyperactive. Most of them either have committed BJP followers trolling anti-party opposition or those furthering the Manohar Parrikar cult.
In Goa's virtual world, the Goa chief minister is a larger-than-life character and without doubt the most discussed phenomenon; hated by some for his saffron lineage, but literally worshipped by many more.
The domination of this world by pro-BJP members for a few years now is now challenged, with Congressmen like Jitendra Deshprabhu starting their own groups which take on the BJP locally, and of course the Congress' pet bugbear, Narendra Modi.
And Kerkar's effort is a step further in that direction.
"There is so much wrong information and photos doing the rounds that one of our first steps will be to identify and call a fake a fake," Kerkar said.
He pointed to a photograph of a young bearded man who resembles Narendra Modi sweeping a public area, which was a rage a few weeks back. The caption of this photograph, which is being peddled by pro-BJP supporters on Facebook, expounds about Modi's humility. Kerkar claims that the photograph, in fact, is morphed.
"We will also disseminate the authentic line of the Congress on critical issues through our social media volunteers. Our agenda is to neutralize the opposition's propaganda and push our own," Kerkar explained.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)