Friday, April 11, 2014

Use of Social Media in Indian Elections

Indian General Elections and Social Media

It is election time in India. We are going to elect our representatives in one of the longest election in country’s history. In fact the process has already been started from 7th April with first phase of voting in some parts of India. Elections are going to be held in 9 phases and will be completed by 12th May. Results of the elections will be out on 16th May. This is going to be one of the longest elections in the country. The electoral population of India is 814 Million. Out of this 100 million are first time voters. For conducting elections in 543 parliamentary constituencies it will cost $ 5 billion which is second only to US expenditure of election at $ 7 billion.
Apart from multiple parties and plethora of candidates which make Indian elections colorful and appealing, an interesting trend is use of social media by almost all the parties to reach the voters. All the parties are trying to reach the first time voters through use of social media. Politicians are using youtube channels, facebook pages , twitter and apps like whatsapp for reaching the young voters. They are sending special greeting to their followers on special occasions such as festivals and also asking them to ‘donate’ a tweet or status message in their support.   
In a way social media has become new battleground for Indian Parliamentary elections all the parties are trying to outdo each other in their race to reach their voters. There are more than 200 million internet users in India and a large percentage of them are young and first time voters.  Politicians believe that these voters may be reached easily and influenced by using internet and social media. Thus these political parties have hired experts and given them full liberty to manage their social media campaign.  Facebook tracker, hash tags, mobile crowd sourcing is being widely used to influence the voters. Approximately 2-5 % of total expenditure is being spent on social media coverage. Google has also been actively participating in the process by organizing weekly hangout with politicians. Google has developed an election hub and a ‘pledge to vote’ interactive map which takes pledge from users that they will go out and vote and so far have collected half a million pledges.

Will it be effective:

As it is the first time that social media is being used by political parties, its effect is yet to be seen. There is a huge digital divide in the country which restricts the effectiveness of social media. At the same time, Indian politics is a complicated affair with cast, religion and regional issues playing a big role in final outcome. But there is no doubt that social media is further helping the process of democratization in world’s biggest democracy.

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