Varun Gandhi appears to be the top BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh, if social media figures are anything to go by. The MP from Sultanpur has an active Facebook page with over 22.62 lakh “likes”.
His another page, Varun Gandhi Youh Brigade, has 42,000-plus followers. Similarly, the page Varun Gandhi for Uttar Pradesh CM 2017, has 3,725 likes, and “Varun Gandhi for UP BJP chief” has 100-plus likes. Yet another page of Varun Gandhi has got 24,000-plus likes on Facebook.
Underlining the power of social media, the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership recently asked its leaders to increase their presence on social media in order to be eligible for getting a ticket for next year’s Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Accordingly, all ticket aspirants for the Assembly elections has been given a “target” of a minimum of 25,000 Facebook likes. The number is 50,000 to be eligible to contest the Lok Sabha elections as BJP candidates.
Union Minister Kalraj Mishra has 1.42 lakh Facebook likes, whereas Manoj Sinha, an MoS, who is believed to be the next state party chief, has 19,500 followers on Twitter. Sinha is not active on Facebook. Yogi Adityanath, who is always in the news for his controversial statements, has 58,663 followers on Facebook. Adityanath is also in the race for the state BJP chief’s post.
Sangeet Som, the firebrand MLA from Sardhana constituency, who is one of the accused in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, has an impressive following on Facebook with 3.09 lakh followers.
The “performance” of older leaders is not that satisfactory in terms of presence on social media. State BJP president Laxmikant Bajpai has 2,985 Facebook likes, while former UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh has only 1,025 Facebook likes.
A state BJP leader said that presence on social media will be one of the major criteria for allotment of tickets. “A ticket seeker for Assembly elections should have at least 25,000 followers on Facebook, while this number should be at least 50,000 for Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
“We were quite active on social media during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which led to the party’s spectacular performance. We would like do it again for the Assembly elections. Though the party has not set any ‘target’, leaders are being encouraged to widen their reach on Facebook and Twitter by increasing their number of followers,” said Manoj Mishra, spokesperson of the UP unit of BJP.
Though many leaders have started taking steps to “boost” their presence on social media, many state leaders, especially from rural or semi-rural background, are feeling “uncomfortable” with the idea. “They do not even know how to operate a computer. Many of them do not know how to send SMSes. So they are finding it difficult to remain active on Facebook or Twitter. Yet, they are taking help from others who can post messages on their behalf,” he said.