LAST MONTH, when WikiLeaks tweeted that Priti Gandhi was the person behind the ‘fake Assange endorsement’ of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the whistleblower website was referring to that ‘member’ of the saffron party who, like many others, has gained ground in politics through the sheer power of social media.
Gandhi rose to prominence a couple of years ago after she led a vigorous ‘campaign’ supporting Modi and the BJP and taking on the Congress in the frequently messy, and often nasty, battles on Twitter. Her catchy Twitter handle, @MrsGandhi, further helped her increase an already bloated fan following.
The Mumbai-based homemaker is among a new wave of supporters who have become ‘spokespersons’ of political parties, fighting high-decibel battles on social media sites like Twitter and even appearing on TV debates representing the respective parties they endorse. From an ‘unofficial’ spokesperson, she has now become ‘official’, with the BJP recently recognising her as the co-convener of Maharashtra state unit’s communication cell. She is frequently seen on television debates representing the party, works with the local BJP corporator in Mumbai and is a vivid supporter of Modi on Twitter. She has over 51,000 followers on the microblogging site and counting, and is followed, among others, by party heavyweight Arun Jaitley.
Another classic example of an ‘outsider’ getting into active politics through social media is Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha. A banker-turned-entrepreneur, Jha got involved with the party professionally during the 2004 elections when his leadership training company was briefly engaged to work with senior leaders on communication strategy.
Along with IIM Bangalore professor Rajeev Gowda, Jha started the website HamaraCongress.com around the 2009 elections. Now, Jha is a prominent face on TV debates and Twitter. Earlier in 2013, he was included on the party’s official panel of spokespersons. Gowda, too, has found a place on the media panel of the party.
“For any politician, it’s very important to see and know what’s happening around. You must be keen to know what people think or are discussing about you, especially around election time,” says Jha, adding, “Social media is the best platform to see what people think about you.”
Recognising the efforts of dedicated social media buffs like Suryanarayan Ganesh, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Rachit Seth and Gaurav Pandhi—some of the avid Congress supporters on Twitter—Jha says these volunteers are doing a fantastic job for the party. “However, we don’t have a paid service system like that of the