Mumbai: Don’t be surprised if you receive a call from ‘Ashok Chavan, chief of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) on your cell phone, asking if you are ready to join the Congress. Perhaps, it has come from the ‘war room’ of the Congress, on the second floor of Tilak Bhavan in Dadar.
The war room is the brainchild of Chavan and the Nagpur-based information technology (IT) and social media expert Abhijit Sapkal, nephew of late Congress leader Dr Shrikant Jichkar.
A war room is what every political party needs to push its agenda, especially during elections. Senior journalist Kumar Ketkar had been tasked with setting up a war room for the Congress, but the plan could not materialise and the project was scrapped. Sapkal was appointed as the in-charge in October last year. At present, a well equipped in-house production unit and a social media team is functional at Tilak Bhavan.
A youth brigade is working for the party, pro bono, in two shifts. Each youngster has been given a data sheet for two Lok Sabha constituencies. “We have a voice message from the state president Chavan, who asks people whether they would like to join the Congress. If one agrees, press one, otherwise two. This is an automated voice call, an ‘IVR’.
Those who consent to work for the party at the booth-level are contacted by the social media team from Tilak Bhavan. This way, we connect with volunteers and now have two lakh such volunteers working across the state,” said Sapkal. Chavan usually calls such booth-level volunteers to praise their work. “They are pushing the Congress manifesto at the ground level.
These volunteers also tell people about the failure of the Modi government, the fiasco of the farm loan waiver scheme, the false assurance given by the Bharatiya Janata Party government. This propaganda helps woo voters to the Congress,” said Sapkal, adding, “In Vidarbha, which goes to the polls on April 11, we have noticed a shift of voters from the BJP to the Congress.”
According to Sapkal, the Congress has the best war room, as compared to the ruling BJP and the Shiv Sena. “A successful poll campaign with the tagline ‘Laaj Kashi Waatat Naahi’ (How Are They Not Ashamed) has been created by an in-house production teamat the Tilak Bhavan campus,” said Sapkal. “The BJP is now on the backfoot, as they are now engaged in defending themselves, instead of creating their own advertisements,” he claimed.