Political leaders and parties in Uttar Pradesh are pumping up their social media campaigns as the battle for assembly elections nears its closure. Facebook, Instagram feeds, reels, and Twitter are flooded with posts around polls and public meetings. We looked at Akhilesh Yadav's and Yogi Aditynath's performance on various platforms at Outlook to determine who did better in this new 'battlefield' of electoral politics and also at the political narrative they are pushing for. Our analysis of data collected from social media sites between the 14th and the 21st of February reveals that the Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo has left behind the incumbent chief minister in the number game, at least on social media platforms.
The former chief minister has 7,401,756 followers on Facebook. At the same time, Yogi Adityanath is followed by 66,92,201. On Twitter, the UP Chief Minister has 17.8 million, whereas Akhilesh Yadav has a following of 15.9 million.
In the last seven days ( 14-21 Feb), Yogi Adityanath has posted 390 times while Akhilesh has posted merely 28 times. The total number of reactions to Yogi Adityanaths posts on Facebook are 16,37,245. In contrast, Akhilesh's posts have drawn reactions of 14,42,000.
In terms of average, Yogi Adityanath has 4,198 reactions every post, whereas Akhilesh Yadav has 51,500 responses on his every post, way ahead of the incumbent UP CM.
On Microblogging site Twitter, a social media space considered vibrant for political discussions, the story is not different from Facebook. In the period between (14-21 Feb), Yogi Adityanath has tweeted 385 times while Akhilesh has tweeted merely 33 times.
The total number of retweets the of incumbent chief minister is 5,12,231, the SP supremo's retweets count to 1,60,624. On average, Yogi Adityanath's retweets are 1,330 only, while Akhilesh Yadav has retweeted 4,867 times.
Akhilesh is again leading the battle in terms of the median for Twitter likes. Adityanath has 23,86,680 likes for his 385 tweets. Yadav on the other hand has 8,30,484 likes for his 33 tweets in the seven days period. While Yogi Adiyanath's per tweet is liked by 6,200 Twitter handles on average, Akhilesh, on the other hand, has 25,348 likes per tweet.
When contacted to comment on this social media trend, a senior BJP IT cell strategist working with the UP's chief minister claims that this data cannot resonate exactly with how social media algorithm works. However, he also accepts that the former chief minister of UP is giving a tough time to the entire IT cell working with Yogi Adityanath's social media campaign.
"Our strategy is a little different from them; we post much more than the Samajwadi Parties social media team does; there is no denying that we have better structure and experts in this entire game. We have been here for a long while others have started this recently. We believe in posting regularly on Social media to keep the engagement going. In contrast, they post once in a while to hold on to content and get engagements on them through paid ads, their cadres reposting or retweeting them over some time. With their strength, they can't afford to post continuously like us and yet maintain good traction; we do that owing to the size of our team and the kind of resources involved." He explained this on conditions of anonymity; people in this team do not have permission to speak to the media.
Nevertheless, he added that everyone in the team believes that Akhilesh's performance is getting better day by day on social media platforms, causing them jitters.
"Well, I would not say that their increasing reach is not a matter of concern for us; we are worried about that and exploring ways to deal with it. But, see, if you look at Rahul Gandhi's handles and that of Narendra Modi, Gandhi does not even stand close to him, especially on Facebook and Instagram; we wanted a similar gap here too, but that seems not to; happen," he explained.
"So I still believe that speculating the scenario through average/median is not the right approach, and this is more to do with the difference in our campaign styles and social media algorithms. For example, we have almost fifty posts a day while they post once or twice, So it's easier to get reactions, likes and retweets on a particular post than fifty posts a day," he adds.
While most of the social media posts of Akhilesh's Yadav focuses on hope, change, and the future, the incumbent Uttar Pradesh's chief minister, counts on his achievements and consistent attack on Samajwadi Party. He calls the party an organisation of musclemen, criminals and rioters. He also refers to his government as that of 'Double Engine', a phrase used to describe coordination between states and centres in the states where BJP remains in power.
However, Yogi Adityanath's nature of tweets varies from place to place, depending on where he is campaigning.
Against the farmer's movement and anger backdrop, Yogi Adityanath posted about his government's contribution to the farmers. "Kisan Kalyan' is the goal of the BJP's double engine government. Your government has set up 'Krishi Vigyan Kendra' in the Hardoi district to train farmers and facilities for testing seeds and planting material. 'Advanced agriculture' is paving the way for the prosperity of the farmers," he wrote on Facebook and Tweeted recently.
In another post from Lakhimpur Kheri, where recently a ruling party minister's son allegedly ran his car over protesting farmers, killing four farmers and journalists, the incumbent chief minister attempts to shift the narrative away from the farmers' issue crime and riots.
"Seeing the influx of people in the Lakhimpur Kheri district, fear has gripped the camp of criminals and rioters. However, the support of farmers, youth, women and older people will pave the way for a grand victory of good governance here. Thank you, my Lakhimpur Kheri residents," Adityanath posted on February 20.
"This immense support of the people of Lakhimpur Kheri is an inauspicious sign for the 'Tamanchawadi, a term for those who possess illegal pistols '. But, on the other hand, this unfathomable 'people's influx' is a sign of tremendous 'people's faith' towards the double engine government of the BJP. Lotus flowers will bloom at every booth here. Thanks, Lakhimpur Kheri," he wrote in another post from Lakhimpur Kheri.
Chief Minister Yogi has been talking about terrorism, women issues, loan waiver to farmers, infrastructure development in his several other posts in the last week.
"Samajwadi Party had announced that it would withdraw cases against 14 accused of terrorism during its reign; we, on the other hand, ensure that terrorists are sent to gallows," Adityanath, Tweeted.
"For fear-free, riot-free, crime-free state, for the victory of nationalism, for the creation of 'self-reliant and new Uttar Pradesh' and the upliftment of the people, all of you must vote for BJP," he wrote in another tweet.
While in Hardoi, a district close to Shiv Temple where Lord Shiva devotees across the country have faith towards the ancient Shiv Temple, Yogi Adityanath Tweeted, "Earlier there was a caste and religion of electricity too. On Eid and Muharram, electricity would be there, but not on Holi-Diwali. Today there is no discrimination. The double engine government has provided electricity to everyone."
Contrary to Yogi Adityanaths' posts, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav, has been cautiously trying to keep himself away from emotive and religious issues and pitches around matters of governance and economy, joblessness and farmer issues, besides posting couplets from Urdu poetry when he is talking about peace and harmony.
On a Facebook and Twitter post, insisting on peace against hatred, he wrote, "uparavala un aqal ke akelon ko be'intaha mohabbata de, jinhonne dilo-o-dimag mem nafaratom se bhar li tanhai hai ( God give wisdom and love to those who have filled in their minds and hearts with hatred)."
Similarly, depicting miseries of the masses, he posted, "accha nahin hai, yun avaam ki ankhon mein sailab laana, hukumat ke hathon ka qanoon ke hathon se lamba ho jana." ( It's not good to make masses cry, it's not good for the rulers to become more potent than law and order)
He has also been very cautious of optics and posted small videos, reels, and songs against the incumbent government in local dialects.
He posted Bhojpuri actress Neha Singh Rathor's viral song taking a dig at the incumbent government titled 'UP mein Ka Ba' ( What is there in UP ?) multiple times. More recently, a video of a child commenting on the conditions of students in the BJP government with the caption "Chote Sarkar, Kar Gayein Badi Baat". He also accused BJP leaders of allegedly appropriating the 'development work' under his government.
Referring to Yogi Adityanath, he wrote on social media handles, "Take care of Babaji, who is in Jhansi right now, people of Bundelkhand will give a befitting reply to people who have cheated them," he wrote.
He also accused the ruling party and Chief Minister of photoshopping images to depict crowd gathering in their rallies in his social media posts.
"In Kannauj, an ocean of public support rose in favour of the Samajwadi Party. Look at the BJP people who put up fake crowd photos in their rallies. UP is witnessing a tsunami of change," he wrote on Facebook and Twitter.
Yadav has also been posting photos of himself with symbols of change, in one of which he stands alone holding a lightened candle. In another one, he can be seen looking up at the sky fireworks, with the caption, "With Holi, there will also be Diwali this time, the Samajwadi will bring happiness to the state."