When BJP’s IT cell chief Amit Malviya landed in Kolkata on Monday (November 16) after being made the party’s co-incharge in Bengal, he received a rousing welcome usually reserved for the party’s top leaders.
“Grateful for this warm and rapturous welcome on my first visit to West Bengal after being appointed the co-incharge. I am sure together we will re-establish the glory of WB. It can happen only if Pishi’s government steeped in corruption, appeasement and lawlessness is routed (sic),” an elated Malviya tweeted.
Grateful for this warm and rapturous welcome on my first visit to West Bengal after being appointed the co-incharge.
I am sure together we will re-establish the glory of WB.
It can happen only if Pishi’s government steeped in corruption, appeasement and lawlessness is routed… pic.twitter.com/gTKiw6P2Em
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) November 16, 2020
The reception spoke volumes about the importance the party is giving to its propaganda chief to spin a political narrative in favour of the BJP at a time when the Trinamool Congress appears to be ruling the roost in social media space.
The TMC’s digital campaign “Mark Yourself Safe From BJP” launched in October to create an awareness against what the state’s ruling party claimed an atmosphere of hate created by the saffron brigade across the country is so far receiving “good response”.
Over 9.54 lakh people have marked themselves “safe from the BJP” until Monday night. The Facebook group for the campaign also have more than 93,000 members so far.
The TMC’s other campaign “Banglar Gorbo Mamata” too received a good response on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. More than 25 lakh people have so far followed the campaign on its Facebook page, while over 92,000 followed it on Twitter.
In contrast, only about 41,000 people have followed the BJP’s “I support BJP for Bengal” campaign on Facebook.
The TMC’s social media presence got a major boost after it roped in poll-strategist Prashant Kishor to counter the BJP’s growth in the state in June last year, just a couple months after the saffron party bagged 18 of the state’s 42 seats in the Lok Sabha elections
The BJP leadership believes Malviya, who successfully handled BJP’s social media campaign in the just-concluded Bihar elections, will be the party’s answer to Kishor.
“Apart from being a deft social media handler, he (Malviya) is also well aware of the situation in West Bengal. He can create an anti-incumbency wave and a pro-Modi narrative ahead of the assembly elections due early next year,” said a BJP’s state IT cell member who did not want to be named.
The BJP core group that includes the party’s Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya, national secretary Arvind Menon, state president Dilip Ghosh, national vice president Mukul Roy and Malviya among others will meet on Tuesday (November 17) to discuss the party’s organisational strategy.
One of the main agenda of the meeting would be to chart a roadmap on how to establish the party’s physical presence in all the 78,799 polling stations in the state as had been directed by Amit Shah during his visit to the state earlier this month, BJP sources said.
The BJP sources say that in about 40% of these booths, the party still does not have a strong presence and it is trying to reach out in those areas through WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms.
Under Malviya’s “supervision and guidance”, the BJP IT cell member said, the outreach programme would get a boost.
Given Malviya’s track record there are speculations about what his actual role is, in Bengal.
“He has been sent here to circulate fake news and to make false propaganda, which he is very good at,” said TMC MLA Jayanta Naskar.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had already asked her party leaders to be “cautious of the BJP IT cell’s mischiefs”. As per her instruction, West Bengal police formed a special team to deal with the fake news menace in September.
The team has been tasked to act as fact-checkers, busting fake news and to initiate legal action against the mischief-mongers.
A priest being assaulted by Muslim youths, Islamic groups taking out a massive procession in Kolkata, a house being damaged in a bomb explosion in East Burdwan and vandalism in a temple in Murshidabad districts are some of the recent fake news busted by the West Bengal police.
Among those booked for circulating fake news are BJP’s Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh and social activist Madhu Purnima Kishwar.
Singh had tweeted a picture of a Murshidabad temple gutted in a fire accident, claiming it was vandalised. Kishwar tweeted a video of an Islamic rally in Bangladesh, claiming that it was held in Kolkata.
Malviya is regarded as the BJP’s most prolific misinformation campaigner. Among many victims of his misinformation campaign is even BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramaniam Swamy.
“One Malaviya character is running riot with filth. We are a party of maryada purushottam not of Ravan or Dushasan (sic),” Swamy tweeted in September after the BJP’s IT cell allegedly targeted him on social media for criticising Narendra Modi government’s handling of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.