Political campaigning used to mean gathering crowds and yelling catchy slogans to lure voters – Garibi Hatao (Abolish Poverty) and the like – larger-than-life grinning political leaders staring down large from hoardings and full-page newspaper advertisements. With television came the addition of films, beautifully shot on 70mm with Dolby sound (remember India Shining?). Cut to the 2014 elections and once again political parties and candidates have adapted, happily using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to engage and educate voters.
Everyone’s doing it
The Aam Admi Party – the new kid on the block that has taken Delhi (read India) by storm – realized early on that an election campaign must have a formidable online presence to support its offline efforts. The Bharatiya Janta Party isn’t far behind. Narendra Modi, who is being projected as its prime ministerial candidate, is using social media such as Google Hangout and Facebook in an attempt to woo the young voter, who is not only net literate, but also influences the votes of any given family. The Congress Party too has jumped onto the social media bandwagon, albeit a little too late, using WhatsApp as its engagement tool and Facebook to propagate its many initiatives. Congress politicos such as Shashi Tharoor were among the earliest to recognize the reach of Twitter and other social media apps.
The Election Commission of India has demonstrated its awareness of the explosive growth of social media and the magnitude and importance of their use during election campaigns, by issuing a set of instructions to be followed with respect to use of social media in election campaigns.
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