The Congress has launched an outreach campaign to boost its image among non-resident Indians (NRIs) and the persons of Indian origin (PIOs) globally, functionaries familiar with the matter said. The party’s unit in poll-bound Kerala has enlisted 1,000 volunteers as part of the campaign in West Asia, where millions of people from the state work and live, they added. The volunteers include professionals who work from one to eight hours daily to create digital outreach tools and improve the party’s messaging abroad.
The push comes ahead of polls in Kerala next month and the 2022 elections in Punjab and Gujarat, which are among other states with a large number of expatriates abroad.
The party’s Punjab and Gujarat units have held meetings to discuss ways for outreach in countries such as Canada, which has a significant Punjabi diaspora population. “The hope [is] that it will help us gain financial contributions and increase the party’s social capital,” said a functionary said, requesting anonymity.
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According to the external affairs ministry, 32 million NRIs and PIOs live around the world. Congress’s arch-rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has chapters across the world, and supporters in 20 countries helped the party in the 2019 national election campaign.
A Congress leader said their campaign was part of a larger initiative to help improve the party’s image abroad and make the party’s presence felt among the diasporas. “The exercise is not just constrained to the elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes abroad regularly, and BJP has its own outreach model. Congress also wants to ensure that it makes its message heard. ”
A second functionary said the party is also working out strategies to reach out to the diaspora in the European Union (EU) and that it has an active chapter in Germany. Around 2.5 to 3 million Indians live in West Asia alone and the party is extremely active there, the functionary added. “After the Covid-19 pandemic… Zoom calls and online meetings became the norm. This has helped us reach out to more and more Indians overseas. We have a few hundred volunteers in the European Union as well.”
The Congress has been particularly focused on its social media outreach, with the party launching a campaign with over 50,00,00 volunteers. It is also working to change its style of messaging by roping in social media influencers, especially in the poll-bound states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and by live streaming Rahul Gandhi’s events.
The second functionary said the volunteers they have overseas are professionals like engineers and doctors. “These are essentially task forces that help us mine data, edit videos…”
Bobbin Philip, 41, who started working for the Congress in 2019, said the social media campaign has also been strengthened in the UK. “Our initiative Empower Congress, a Facebook page, has gained 25,000 followers within a year,” Phillip said. “We also do studies and have sent these to All India Congress Committee secretaries in India. This includes creating a better, more comprehensive communication system.”
Phillip said better communication can help bring back the voters the Congress has lost. “Rigorous communication from Rahul Gandhi also makes a significant impact,” he said. Philip said the UK chapter of the Indian Overseas Congress is focusing on the Kerala elections. “We are trying to get the associations to donate as well. We are trying to reach out to people from across the world.”