Elections in the digital age


Until recently, the campaign strategies of political parties centered on public rallies, and print, television and radio advertising. But the proliferation of Internet, computers and smartphones in the past few years has prompted politicians to look at the potential of the online medium.In Shashi Tharoor’s words, “Social media is indispensable, if you are thinking about a long-term future, which we are, you have to build a platform today." The data is broken down on the basis of gender, Facebook and Twitter users, and the mode of internet access - mobile, computer, tablet, etc.

In a Business Today survey, conducted in 12 cities by market research firm MDRA in October, nearly 95 per cent respondents said they were following the digital campaigns of political parties. The survey also showed that over 46 per cent of the 1,010 respondents, who will be eligible to vote for the first time in 2014, take opinions expressed online seriously. Keeping these numbers in mind, political parties have begun taking the social media network rather seriously.

“It is in my party’s DNA to use technology. When a rally happens on the road, over a lac people watch it live on webcast. Social media is a message amplifier. It is not just a one way communication, it is also important to know how people feel. It is opening up where political parties have to realize that they need to get active on social media,” said Arvind Gupta, IT Head, BJP. Social media works as a platform for parties to connect with the internet using potential voters of tomorrow and to get their attention in the right manner poses to be a challenge for the parties. It is not a surprise that a lot of things that are said over the internet get a whole lot of attention as they are scrutinized by the public. Therefore, special attention needs to be paid to the content. Besides, understanding of the fact that social media is a two way platform for the parties to connect with their potential voters is very important. They not only need to speak out loud, but also use the forum to connect with their users.

Ankur Srivastav, AAP, said, “We have over 400 candidates spread across the country. Our main manifesto is crowd sourcing which we call ‘Swaraj’. We get emails from people saying that this is the solution that we have found for AAP. Besides, the whole beauty of social media is that you cannot control it. 2019 is going to be much more exciting election in terms of Social Media.”

Sanjay Jha, INC, said, “Whenever BJP presents a charge sheet somebody from BJP gets arrested!” Commenting further on the impact of social media, he said, “Social media is a platform that no one can ignore. I am also told by people that I am the most hated man on Twitter. What’s more is that they also tell me that I should be proud of it. Either way, social media has become a very significant medium to engage with people. If you look into the reality of India, it is a complex as if you go to remote areas. We have a lot of diversity, which is why traditional form of reaching out to people will continue. However, to reach out to the internet using audience, every party needs to go social.”

“Social media is a double edged sword and the sooner we realize it, the better it will be for everyone. It can be loosely moderated but not controlled. What it needs is a little bit of moderation from party people and the need to keep it clean,” said AnkurSrivastava, AAP. Sanjay Jha also touched on the fact that a lot of people criticized INC for capturing the social media platform a bit late. “But the Congress party has galloped really fast and caught up in the race. That’s telling you that times have changed and the field is open for all, even if you’re a late starter.”

“If a party believes that social media will help get them votes, they are highly mistaken. The truth is that it is a vital communication channel for public service and feedback and that’s what it should be used for,”says Sanjay Jha in conclusion.

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