Memes, videos and WhatsApp groups, candidates step up digital campaign ahead of Tamil Nadu municipal elections

With the highly anticipated Tamil Nadu Urban Local Bodies Surveys scheduled for February 19, candidates from all political parties have been campaigning in force for several weeks.

While restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic may have caused difficulties for parties to hold mega-rallys and campaign meetings, that hasn’t stopped them from finding ways to reach out to their constituents. What stands out most is how candidates and political parties in Tamil Nadu have used digital and social media platforms to connect and communicate with voters.

From posting posters and creating videos on civic issues, to conducting virtual interactions and meeting with voters, candidates have tried new ways to adapt to modern times.

Political leaders, including Chief Minister MK Stalin, have been busy with virtual campaigns in recent days. In virtual campaigns, party officials are forced to gather in one place to listen to their leaders speak to them online.

The IT wing of the DMK, known for coming up with unique social media tags for each election, has now adopted the slogan “Ullatchiyilum Malaratum Namma Aatchi”.

Party officials used the labels and campaigned for the polls listing the various social activities carried out by the party in the short term. In addition, party advertisements are shown on social networks such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, with the exception of those appearing in newspapers.

Meanwhile, BJP Chairman K Annamalai during the candidate presentation event on Feb. 7 stressed the importance of using social media. He told his party men there should be hard work and smart work in the polls.

“Use modern technology, use it to build relationships with the public. Make an effort to call every voter in your neighborhood. Share all your wellness activities on WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. The party has to grow and for that we have to win more votes, you have to come out victorious,” he said.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the door-to-door campaign is also limited this time around. Candidates try to catch voters’ attention through social media.

For Paul Pradeep N, a Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) candidate running in Ward 155, campaigning on social media for the local elections was easier since he was already part of the party’s digital campaigns during the 2019 elections in Lok Sabha and from 2020 to the Assembly. .

“Having worked in social media campaigns earlier, I knew what I had to do this time. But for this election, the target audience is very specific, only in my neighborhood. It was a special task for us,” said he declared.

Paul said that over the past few weeks he and his team have created short reels and videos which have been released on WhatsApp and other platforms like Instagram. Apart from that, Paul has also teamed up with an influencer to produce a YouTube video to raise awareness about the cash-for-vote system. He also asked his friends and family to send testimonial videos which were released.

“We didn’t make the video in consumer format to explain to people why money for votes is a bad idea. Instead, we created a prank show, where we went to different houses in our locality and asked them to vote for money and see their reaction. We then explained why it was wrong. This video worked well for us,” he added.

WhatsApp has emerged as the most widely used new political platform for reaching voters in urban local elections.

An AIADMK official involved in the campaign through Tambaram said, “We are reaching voters through WhatsApp. We ask them to provide their numbers when we go to their homes for voter verification lists. After receiving them, we add them to our parish association group in which we used to send all the initiatives that we have taken for the parish and also the things that we have planned to do if we are elected . The response was quite quick. As soon as we send a message, the members respond to them,” said an AIADMK official involved in the campaign in the areas around the Tambaram company. Tambaram region is facing elections for the first time after being reclassified as a corporation.

In most WhatsApp groups, information including candidate statements, party achievement documents, etc. are shared. Those in the group in turn forward them to their contacts.

Paul also agreed that WhatsApp was the most used way to reach voters in Ramapuram.

“We usually find one or two residents of a particular apartment who are our supporters and will vote for us. We create a group with them and send them messages, videos, audio messages and then they pass our messages on their flat groups,” Paul said.

R Chandrasekar, an independent candidate, who is running in ward number 47 Tambaram, said WhatsApp was their main source of communication with voters.

“We have these WhatsApp groups that have been active for the past three years. Nearly 1,000 people are part of it. Although I was not an elected councillor, I used to react immediately to problems in our region, present them to officials and do my best to resolve them quickly. We may not meet all ward members daily, but we can connect with them via mobile. Now, I’m just sharing the in-group wellness initiatives I’ve been doing all these years. It is no longer an independent candidate or any other person appointed on behalf of a party. Voters are smart, they know who to vote for and who will come to help them immediately,” Chandrasekar said.

Explaining why digital campaigns work, Paul said: “What social media and digital platforms do to us is that they give us wide reach. Everyone is on their phone these days, especially young people. So I was able to contact them. »

Kamakshi Subramanian, 94, who is running as an independent candidate from Ward 174 (Adyar and Besant Nagar) and her team have also used social media to campaign for her.

Dr TD Babu, a key member of her team, said: “Since Kamakshi paati (grandmother) was only able to go out to campaign once, apart from in-person campaigns, we capitalized on platforms like WhatsApp and YouTube. We created a video for her and shared it on WhatsApp with e-flyers. We also sent messages on our campaign promises.

He said, “WhatsApp has helped people know who Kamakshi Subramaniyan is. When we went in person to connect with voters, they already knew who she was, thanks to social media.

Kamakshi herself called a few residents and spoke to them personally. “Nowadays there are so many things we can do using the latest technology. We took the opportunity to campaign well. However, for me, there is nothing that can compare to in-person campaigns. Only when they see the person can voters connect.

Paul also agreed and said, “While social media can have great benefits, I always prefer in-person campaigns because people want to know who you are and want that personal touch. So physical campaigns were part of my plan and personally went to connect with each voter.

John C. Dent