Newly-appointed Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra made her Twitter debut on Monday ahead of her Uttar Pradesh roadshow where she was greeted by enthusiastic party workers. Accompanied by party president Rahul Gandhi and the other newbie general secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia, the contingent promptly hitched a short ride on top of a bus in the procession.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s Twitter entry comes after that of Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati who joined Twitter last week. The move to open Twitter accounts has now formally become the ticket to ride if one aims for electoral office. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have ridden to power on their campaigning and social media blitzes, the Congress first dynasty’s reluctance to climb aboard the now-280 character social media is surprising but one thing is clear, usually the move to Twitter is an attempt to connect directly with voters and party workers ahead of contesting an election. There have been feverish speculation that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra may contest from Varanasi against Modi, though a section of the media has maintained that the PM may contest from elsewhere.
Mayawati had been dismissive of Twitter earlier but hit the sign-up after the BSP and the Samajwadi Party went ahead with their coalition without the Congress in tow. Other parties, including the CPI, the CPM, the NCP and the Trinamool Congress, have also upped the ante on social media, hinting at a well-though-out plan.
According to a Business Standard report, there are 900 million eligible voters of which half-a-billion have access to the Internet. In that half-a-billion, 300 million are on Facebook and 200 million on Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service and more than a million use Twitter. Politicians, who debut on social media, are also followed by media outfits since not everyone can snag an interview with the new Gandhi on the block.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter in 2015 and that too after the 2014 general elections wiped the party slate to 44. Subsequently, the Congress has invested heavily for its social media activities.
As for the BJP, it has a formidable cyber army, with Modi himself having 43 million followers on Facebook and 45 million on Twitter globally. PM Modi is among the world’s most followed politicians. Rahul Gandhi still has only 8.47 million followers on Twitter and 2.2 million on Facebook.
While Mayawati and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra joined Twitter within a week of each other, we’ll have to see if the two leaders manage to like or retweet each other and power a new flock of speculation of the Mahagathbandhan.