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Times change, so does Biman

Calcutta, March 18: A 73-year-old technophobe guided by a tech-savvy comrade 40 years his junior today launched the Bengal CPM’s Facebook page and Twitter account at Alimuddin Street.

Biman Bose, whose party was once at the forefront of the opposition to computers fearing unemployment in the state, today said: “Times change and people adapt to that change.”

Accompanied by CPM Rajya Sabha MP Ritabrata Banerjee, who has 5,000-odd friends on Facebook and around 320 Twitter followers, Bose spoke on the importance of social media.

“Everyone, from kids to the elderly, now uses social media. This is the age of telecommunication. Social media, therefore, are an effective tool of communication that we have decided to use,” the CPM veteran said.

Bose, who CPM sources said was yet to pick up text messaging, was visibly uneasy logging on to the state CPM’s Facebook page, which by 7pm had got around 7,400 likes. The party’s Twitter handle — @CPIM_WESTBENGAL — had 190-odd followers by then.

The CPM move could prove timely.

According to a 2013 study by an NGO, 160 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats in the country, including Howrah, Balurghat, Calcutta North and South, were likely to be highly influenced by the social media. Sixty-seven others, including Burdwan-Durgapur, Asansol and Purulia, are likely to be moderately influenced.

Although several prominent Left faces from Bengal, including Nirupam Sen, Manab Mukherjee and Rabin Deb, have been on Facebook for some years now, the party did not have an official presence on social networking sites.

In terms of its debut in the virtual world, the Left party is way behind Trinamul, whose chief Mamata Banerjee’s Facebook page has 6.5 lakh likes.

“This is no race. There is no falling back or leading from the front. This is not how we look at it. Our party’s central leadership has been on the social media for a while,” Bose said.

He added: “There are many things we would like to do but cannot immediately do because of funds crunch, unlike those parties that never fall short of cash.”

Trinamul’s Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien, the party’s first prominent leader to join the social media, ridiculed the CPM on Twitter.

“CPI(M) opened its Twitter and Facebook accounts today. Welcome to social media comrades, it’s a few years past 1848, as you may notice…. CPI(M)’s belated entry to social media indicates how non-contemporary its politics is. The party is used to ‘talking to’, not ‘engaging with’,” O’Brien tweeted.

Although O’Brien has been part of the Twitterati for years, his party had largely remained blind to the benefits of the social media until the Assembly elections of 2011.

Only after Mamata’s June 2012 debut on Facebook did some other politicians, including the Congress’s Pradip Bhattacharya and of late, Somen Mitra, who switched from Trinamul to the Congress, start recognising the importance of staying active on the social media.

The CPM social media team would have 20 youngsters — aged between 23 and 34 years — to handle its Facebook page and Twitter account.