March 24, 2023

Elections 2022: EC ban on physical rallies: BJP, Congress, BSP prepared for virtual campaign, SP cries foul | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Different political parties have reacted differently to the Election Commission’s (EC) directive banning physical rallies and road shows till January 15. While the BJP and the Congress said they had developed the infrastructure for virtual campaigning much in advance, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) said it depended more on door-to-door campaigning. The Samajwadi Party (SP) said it was planning how to organise virtual rallies.
While announcing on January 8 the poll schedule for the five states of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa, chief election commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra said: “The commission has decided that no road show, padyatra, cycle, bike and vehicle rallies or any procession shall be allowed till January 15… Similarly, no physical rallies of political parties or probable candidates or any other group related to elections shall be allowed till January 15. The commission shall subsequently review the situation of the pandemic and issue further instructions accordingly.”
The political parties have welcomed the EC decision and said the constitutional body’s instructions would be followed in letter and spirit. They are also prepared that the ban may well extend up to the election dates and are gearing up for that eventuality as well.
However, the parties responded differently regarding their preparedness for conducting virtual campaigning.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
Talking to TOI, Union information and broadcasting (I&B) minister Anurag Thakur hailed the EC’s decision and said the government’s schemes through digital means would help the BJP.
Anurag Thakur, who also holds the youth affairs and sports portfolios, said, “We welcome the decision of the Election Commission. It is in the interest of the people. We have witnessed how direct benefit transfer (DBT) during pandemic was used to its full potential and digital payments through UPI Bheem application created a record. Digital education helped the people during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The I&B minister said the BJP would go with the EC’s digital campaigning directive. “We were continuously in the field for the last five years in UP, serving the people of the state. On the one hand we fulfilled the promise of ‘gundaraj aur bhrashtachar-mukt UP’ (UP free from goons and corruption) and on the other hand our welfare schemes of providing free houses, electricity, toilets, water, LPG cylinders, etc to the poorest of the poor will help the BJP,” he said.
Anurag Thakur targetted the BJP’s opponents. “It will be difficult for those who were absent for five years but have emerged on the eve of elections. They are now finding it difficult to reach out to the voters. Bua-Behen-Babua blamed EVM (electronic voting machine) for the previous electoral defeats. Now, they have already started making excuses complaining about digital campaign. They will blame it after their defeat in the assembly elections,” he said.
Though he did not name them, by “Bua-Behen-Babua”, he was referring to BSP supremo Mayawati, Congress general secretary in-charge of UP Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and SP president Akhilesh Yadav.
BJP spokesperson and media co-in-charge Sanjay Mayukh said the BJP has the experience of virtual campaigning and, therefore, it would not find it difficult in the upcoming assembly elections as well. “Home minister Amit Shah ji held virtual rallies during the 2020 Bihar assembly election. The BJP will campaign virtually at every level. We will set up green rooms in all the states,” he said about the preparedness.
With a strong and active presence in social media, the Congress did not appear perturbed over the EC directive. The party said it already had its powerful social media presence in all the poll-bound states and it just needed to penetrate deeper into the domain.
Talking to TOI, Congress social media department chairperson Rohan Gupta said, “Basically we were anticipating the Election Commission’s directive because of Covid. The way stringent guidelines have come, we need to increase the levels and quantum of social media activities. Initially, digital campaign was just complementing the ground campaign but now it will substitute it 100 per cent till the guidelines are in place.”
Rohan Gupta said there would be multiple digital set ups – one set up would be at the national level and the others would be at the state levels. “We are planning to launch the virtual rallies from next week on all social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram. The national leaders will join from Delhi while the state leaders and volunteers will join from the state capitals.”
The Congress social media chief said LED TVs would be installed in Congress offices in the states for the party volunteers to watch the live campaign by maintaining social distance. Mobile LED TVs would also be installed at a few paces.
Rohan Gupta said, “People will be invited to the live virtual rallies through and they will get a link. They can also comment and give their feedback. We will have multiple reach on all the platforms – through party programmes, press conferences and campaigns; manifesto release and discussions; and candidate-level interaction.”
He said the Congress’s social media department had set up offices in the capitals of the election-bound states four months ago. “We have trained the social media warriors up to assembly level in all the states. We will be setting up Whatsapp groups on the booth level. We need to penetrate more. We are aiming at organic reach and the need to map youth through micro-targetting,” he said.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
A day after the announcement of the poll schedule, BSP supremo Mayawati issued a press note and asked the party workers to strictly adhere to the EC guidelines.
The former four-time UP chief minister said: “There are strict directions for all the BSP office-bearers, workers and candidates to scrupulously follow the model code of conduct (MCC) which has come into effect from today besides the party discipline.”
BSP spokesperson Faizan Khan said, “We welcome the EC directive and Behen Mayawati ji has asked us all to follow it. Besides using social media, we have been visiting door-to-door for the past five years. Now we will reach out to the voters also through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter every soon.
Samajwadi Party (SP)
Among the prominent political parties, Akhilesh Yadav-led SP was the only one to express apprehensions over the new arrangement of ban on physical rallies and shows and directive to use virtual campaigning.
Soon after the EC press conference, Akhilesh Yadav told news agency ANI: “If we go for the virtual rallies, the Election Commission should think about those parties and their workers who do not have any infrastructure to hold virtual rallies. How will these parties hold virtual rallies without the infrastructure? EC should cooperate by giving more time to the opposition parties on the TV channels. The opposition parties should get airtime on these channels for free.”
The former CM further said: “The BJP already has a huge infrastructure. They are in the government. They also get the maximum electoral bonds. They are ahead of all other parties in incurring election expenditure. We are witness to the manner in which government money has been spent on giving advertisements to the channels. The channels were obliged yesterday and would be obliged today also. Therefore, the opposition parties should also get space. Otherwise, they would not be able to garner resources for their space.”
SP spokesperson Anurag Bhadauria told TOI that the party’s virtual campaign was in a “planning stage”. “We will obviously follow the EC’s instructions. We will go for door-to-door campaign. Our virtual campaign is in the planning stage. We will let you know very soon,” he said.

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