punjab assembly polls: Punjab assembly elections: ‘Personal touch’ still top strategy for farm groups


(This story originally appeared in on Jan 12, 2022)

With the February 14 Punjab assembly elections just over a month away, the (SSM) is gearing up to launch a digital campaign as the Election Commission has barred physical rallies and roadshows till January 15 in the wake of the third wave of Covid-19. However, constituents of the political front formed by farm groups are still relying on the quintessential “personal touch” by way of door-to-door campaigning, given that a majority of their supporters aren’t tech-savvy.

“No doubt, social media has helped to bridge the gap between leaders and their supporters, but our parties have just 4%-5% tech-savvy workers, so we depend more on holding a small gathering of 5 to 10 people to convey our ideologies, programme and our vision,” said Rattan Singh Randhawa, who is the vice-president of Border Area Sangharsh Committee.

Randhawa’s organisation is helping Jamhuri Kisan Sabha (JKS), one of the constituents of Sanyukt (SSM). He said most of their supporters were farm labourers, daily-wagers and small-time shopkeepers who didn’t even have smartphones, so relying more on social media platforms for canvassing was out of the question. “Yet, we have established an IT Cell in Jalandhar to cater to the needs of 4%-5% of our supporters who are technologically upward and are aware of social media platforms,” he said.

JKS state president Satnam Singh Ajnala said personal contact or calling over the phone was more effective and yielded more positive results than approaching their vote bank over social media which, according to Ajnala, had lost credibility. He said fake and paid news had resulted in loss of credibility and integrity of social media in recent past.

As far as the SSM is concerned, the front’s central office in Ludhiana is being equipped to run the online campaign. The Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), a part of whose constituents have formed SSM, had run virtual campaigns through its IT cell, Kisan Ekta Morcha, during the farm agitation and achieved success. Now, a similar arrangement is being made to make the presence of SSM felt in the virtual world. The SSM is working on a three-pronged strategy to reach out to voters. It will have a centralised system in the name of SSM and the candidates will have individual pages. As a third option, popular leaders, like Balbir Singh Rajewal, will have fan pages. The SSM is also exploring the option of hiring an agency for pushing hits at any event. The SSM will have WhatsApp groups, most likely in every constituency.

‘Strategy soon’
Baljit Singh, who headed Kisan Ekta Morcha, is assisting SSM. He has held a couple of meetings with SSM leaders and the strategy is expected to be finalised in a day. “We have suggested measures in taking ahead the election campaign. Modes have been suggested by which we can reach out to more followers as people already are evincing interest to know what SSM is doing. We hope to start in a couple of days. The virtual campaign will be ahead of others,” hesaid.

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