There was a time when political campaigns were carried out with the means of rally and with the means of pen and paper. Then with the advent of radio, campaigns took a new turn and politicians welcomed the radio with open hands as that gave them an opportunity to address a large audience at the same time. Thereafter the era of televisions arrived when politicians first realized the importance of visual effect. It was a time when the line—‘Jo dikhta hai woh bikta hai’ became politically more relevant.
And now social media is knocking at the doors of political campaigns. The recent study by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IRIS Knowledge Foundation revealed that social media such as Facebook and Twitter are likely to influence at least 160 Lok Sabha constituencies out of a total 543.
This study shows what importance social media is going to play in coming elections. According to Shri Kuldeep Sharma, Spokesperson, Pradesh Congress Committee, “Social media is still growing, it has a good grip on youngsters but it will be take time to grow on older generation.” On the impact, which social media is playing on political campaigns, he added, “ During the yatra to remote places like Karanpur, it is not possible to get media there, but the photos taken can be uploaded on the website within minutes and feedback can also be received.”
While calling sites Facebook, etc., a good platform, Ms. Archana Somendra, PCC, added social media provides a good platform for likeminded to discuss, comment on political issues. On the other hand on grass root level, rallies are the better means of campaigning. “
Emphasizing on the misuse of social media, Mr. Sharma, said, creating fake identities on social websites has become a big nuisance. Also, he feels that the recent street movements like Anna Hazare movement, the protest march for rape victim; got momentum due to social media but the momentum was short lived. It had no sustaining power.
According to with Mr Sharma, social media lacks responsibility. He said, “It will be take time to mature, maybe till 2025, social media will start playing an active role in political campaigning. “
While the ruling party is still trying to get its grip on social media, the opposition Bharatiya Janata party started it journey on social media way back in 2007. According to Mr. Sachin Khare, Secretary, IT Cell, Shri Rajnath Singh, laid the foundation for IT cell, by inviting IIM-A pass out Mr. Prodyut Bora, as the national conveyor. He did research on the field for a year and then formulated the IT Cell.
BJP’s efforts in formation of IT cell were rewarded with Corporate Excellence Award in 2008. The political campaign of then BJP President Shri L.K. Advani in 2009 is still remembered. The efforts of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for embracing technology in his governance were recognized by IT giant, Google, when he was the only chief minister from India to be invited to address the Google Big Tent Activate Summit 2013 on March 21 through Google+ Hangout on the theme Technology in Politics.
During his address via videoconference, Gujarat chief minister Shri Narendra Modi said that the Internet was reshaping politics. “Today’s web-connected world has brought about another paradigm shift with the Internet. This is not just impacting politics, but is in a sense fundamentally redefining it. Earlier technological evolutions helped the politicians more. They could take advantage of new means and dimensions. Information technology has led to empowerment of people as well – each and every one of us! This is very important for a large democracy like India. I have been saying IT + IT = IT: Indian Talent + Information technology = India Tomorrow.”
Talking about the usage of technology during campaigning of Assembly election for Rajasthan due next year, Shri Khare said, “An app has been with the name Vasundhararaje for android and IPhones, which is updated regularly with pictures and details about her ‘Suraj Sankalp yatra’ and is connected to GPS which reveals Vasundharaji’s precise location at any given time.”
He added that a Facebook page with name “Vasundhara Raje for Rajasthan CM” has been made dedicated to her. The page has so far received 69,722 likes. The official website, vasundhararaje.in also directs the viewer to the Facebook page. Emphasizing on the cost saving nature of such exercise, Mr. Khare, said social media tools are cheap and better way of creating awareness among crowd as spreading of message is faster and feedback is also received within minutes.
A study done by Pew Research says nearly 45% of Indian web users connect on social media to discuss politics. With 70% of Indian Population being youngsters, and with most of them being available on social media in some or the form, it’s a huge vote bank which any party can’t afford to ignore. Also, political parties can use social media as a platform to encourage people to vote. A ‘like’ or a tweet has more effect on the mentality of youngsters than any other medium.