The Importance of Social Media Campaigning for Political Parties 

Browsing through any popular social media platform like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc., is bound to make you realise how the “trending” tab includes hashtags like #SamajwadiParty and #BJPAgain with over 550 tweets in an hour. Since the Election Commission announced its decision to impose restrictions on poll rallies due to the rapidly rising COVID-19 cases in the country, political parties haven’t let this deter them. Most of them are aggressively using social media to promote their causes. Since40% of the rural population does not own a smartphone, the ECs could have been a notable setback for all parties. However, digital campaign designers and digital media campaign businesses are working around the clock with experts in small towns and large cities to create plans for influential and effective campaigns for their clients. All parties are looking to optimise their reach and are conducting virtual rallies, attended by over 7.18 crore people. They have even appointed social media in-charges to reach out to people, from the Assembly to the booth level. 

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the ‘social media game,’ indicated that it is prepared to hold virtual rallies and attempts to contact voters through multiple full or half-page newspaper advertisements. 

The Samajwadi Party’s social media team has also taught and equipped booth-level office-bearers in the states with the latest strategies. It will also concentrate on preventing the spread of misinformation campaigns on social media at its source. 

Congress is using digital rallies as well. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the party’s general secretary, launched the virtual campaign on January 8 to connect with people online. Rohan Gupta, the Congress’s social media head, said the party was ready to host virtual rallies and reach out to people via Zoom, Google Meet, Facebook, WhatsApp, and other similar platforms. It will also install LED screens in strategic locations to reach voters.

Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has a smaller digital footprint, hired a team of technical employees and social media volunteers and enlisted the assistance of specialists to reach out to people. 

All other political parties intend to broadcast campaign videos across the states, particularly in rural regions, using vans and trucks equipped with LED screens. 

From the beginning, door-to-door campaigning has been an essential mode of electioneering, and in the altered environment, parties and candidates have enhanced this mode of campaigning. 

The BJP has a clear advantage in this fierce competition to reach voters. Akhilesh Yadav, the leader of the Samajwadi Party (SP), had also urged the Election Commission (EC) to grant cash for virtual campaigning to political parties that lack the “digital infrastructure to compete with the BJP.” This edge is a result of the following: 

● For the past few years, the BJP has focused on social media, and practically all of its leaders are tech-savvy. 

● The BJP intends to use 3D Studio Mix technology, allowing politicians to appear on a platform from two different locations. 

● The party already has over 1.5 lakh booth-level WhatsApp groups in the state. 

● The party has already established war rooms for local campaigns, and its workers are using social media to engage with people. 

When it comes to the importance of virtual campaigning, the state’s extensive use of social media shows an effort to create content that reaches all voters, whether they are urban and concerned about governance and infrastructure or rural and concerned about livelihoods, social inclusion, and access to services. We see both factional content and content intended at exposing incompetent administration, with great attention put into the framing and tone of the content, similar to how witty lyrical content and humour drives election campaign content. The shift to Hindi in both message text and multimedia material and meme creation suggests that political parties believe that what they create on Twitter will reach voters directly. The idea is to get as much information to voters as possible, either through Twitter or WhatsApp messages. Finally, we see that explicit disinformation, which was a significant generator of content during the 2017 election, has been replaced by a far more sophisticated and widespread form of innuendo and bias. 

The whole pre-election process would’ve been nearly impossible in a pandemic without social media, and we cannot overlook its usefulness and impact. 

The UP elections this year are eagerly awaited. One of the reasons is that its results will reveal whether the BJP has neutralized the discontent among farmers in western Uttar Pradesh by repealing the three farm laws. The farm protests can potentially impact 240 of the 620 assembly seats going to polls in 5 states. It will also shed some light on whether high inflation and COVID management have had any political impact over the last two years.

-Sania Mahabaleshwarkar

SY BSc. Economics

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