In the run up to the 16th Lok Sabha elections, a lot of attention was paid to conversations on social media, measuring which politicians were trending in search volume and counting retweets and followers. The first-time voters, many of whom form part of the ‘connected’ generation – numbered around 150 million this year, and most parties took steps to reach out to voters online and on social media.
Social Media And Its Role In Elections
The World Wide Web (WWW) turned 25 years in the month of March 2014. And also in India we had the 16th Lok Sabha election in the months of April and May 2014. There exists a close relationship between both of them, because the WWW influenced the Indian voters and especially the young and middle class voters big time. In India these days the use of the social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, has been high. From the young generation to the older ones, everybody is using these for comfort. The social media has now become a 24×7 activity for the people; from anywhere and any place you can access it. The events related to politics, sports, entertainment etc., we can see all of these have been given a platform, where these can be shared with other people not only in our society, but globally as well. In India the social media played a major role in the 16th Lok Sabha election hence it becomes necessary to analyze the role of the social media in these elections. The use of the social media by the political parties and their leaders in the developed countries for elections and other purpose is not new. But, for a country like India, it was something new and highlighting the change and development in the technological infrastructure. The potential of social media for opening up new spaces for dialogue, debates, and issue-based deliberations which are free from the mainstream hierarchical and bureaucratic tendencies of the institutionalized political process, has been often celebrated. Thus, the Facebook users emerge as a new vote-bank to the political parties and they can influence the election results.
Election commission Of India And Social Media
The Election Commission of India (ECI) also uses social media as a platform for conducting free, fair, peaceful and transparent elections and, more importantly, to check the problem of paid news. The ECI for the first time brought the poll campaign for a candidate or a party on the social media under strict regulation and control. For this purpose, the ECI directed the social networking sites to take a necessary pre-certification from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committees at district and State levels before putting any of the contents in the public domain. Also, they should maintain the expenditure incurred by the political parties and individual candidates. The Election Commission has also asked the social networking sites to maintain expenditure incurred by the political parties and individual candidates on advertisements so that they can be produced to the Commission when requested for.
Lok Sabha Elections 2014 And Media
We now know the rise social media by two of the top YouTube Channels, ‘Narendra Modi’ and ‘I Support Narendra Modi’ which faced a hike in the number of subscribers. While there was some debate before the elections on whether or not there was an actual ‘Modi wave’ online, it certainly seemed to be the case, with search trends and Facebook and Twitter numbers showing definite interest in both the BJP and Modi [source]. This was borne out in the election results, with the BJP sweeping the polls. The website of the Election Commission of India shows that the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) won a vote share of 17,16,57,549 votes which accounted to 31 percent of the total votes given. The Congress came in second with 10,69,38,242 votes that accounted for 19.3 percent of the total votes, while the Aam Aadmi Party, which was second only to the BJP in terms of online trends, got 1,13,25,635 – or just about 2 percent – votes.
How Did Social Media Work In Favor Of Our Political Parties?
The social media impact was felt more on the first-time voters, who wanted to hear a positive message. For instance the AAP spoke about corruption and the problems plaguing the country, but never offered any hope in the form of bringing about a change. The BJP on the other hand offered the hope which people desperately wanted whereas Congress really didn’t have any story to tell or any message to give. This impacted the decision of the first time voter a lot. It’s not that that first time voters were brainwashed by the social media message, it was just that people wanted to hear positivity and also hope for a change, which they got to hear. Data released by Twitter, Keeping in sync with real time happenings showed that the popularity of the BJP soared slowly with the last months leading to the elections showing a huge spike, whilst AAP and Congress were far behind.
Young Voters : A New Vote-bank
Since independence till now we have seen a total of 15 Lok Sabha elections but there is something unique about the ongoing 16th Lok Sabha election 2014, which is for the first time witnessing the largest number of young voters. The youth of the country became a vote-bank themselves with 149.36 million first-time voters, who constitute about 20 per cent of the electorate. This formidable vote-bank—on an average 90,000 voters in each constituency—is going to be a major factor in deciding the fate of several candidates. There exist excitement and expectations among the new voters (young) who are for the first time exercising their right to vote to elect their representatives. It will be interesting to see on what basis they will cast their votes as there are many factors which play an important role like: which political party a candidate is representing; credibility of the candidate, young or old; whether or not he/she is a new entrant to politics; the caste and religion etc. of the candidate; if the young voters are going to boycott the election.
Conclusion About Social Media
Despite whatever has been written earlier in this article about the role of the social media in the Lok Sabha election, there are many critics who believe that among those having Facebook accounts, not all are eligible to vote as many of them are teenagers. Also, even among those who are eligible, all may not come out on the election day and stand in queue in the polling booth to cast their vote, because they are more interested or active in Facebook sitting along with their computer, laptop, smartphone or mobile phone etc. This is also true for other social media tools which are available. The critics further argue that the social media are an urban phenomenon, and in the election it is the people from the rural areas who come out in large numbers to cast their vote, when compared with the urban areas. Regarding the participation of young voters, the critics argue that the present young generation is fed up or frustrated with our political system and they are not interested in any political activity (voting).
Whatever the critics say about the social media and young voters, we should not forget that the role played by the social media and young people of this country in the Anna Hazare-led Jan Lokpal Bill and Nirbhaya movements not only in the Capital city (Delhi) of the country, which of course became the epicenter of these movements, but almost all over the country. Perhaps it will be naive to presume that the social media and young voters are going to play a major role in the 16th Lok Sabha election, but it is also wrong to discard them totally. At the least we can say that for both the social media and young voters, a beginning is being made to participate in the democratic processes starting with this 16th Lok Sabha election, and there is still a long way to go.
Lok Sabha Results
We even bring to you the final results of Lok sabha elections 2014, you can get an idea on how the social media influenced it by the striking win of BJP which conducted a mass campaign not on only sites such as facebook, twitter and google plus but came up regularly with striking TV Ads, news and a strong political change message.
|Status Known For 543 out of 543 Constituencies|
|Bharatiya Janata Party||282||282|
|Communist Party of India||1||1|
|Communist Party of India (Marxist)||9||9|
|Indian National Congress||44||44|
|Nationalist Congress Party||6||6|
|Aam Aadmi Party||4||4|
|All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam||37||37|
|All India N.R. Congress||1||1|
|All India Trinamool Congress||34||34|
|All India United Democratic Front||3||3|
|Biju Janata Dal||20||20|
|Indian National Lok Dal||2||2|
|Indian Union Muslim League||2||2|
|Jammu & Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party||3||3|
|Janata Dal (Secular)||2||2|
|Janata Dal (United)||2||2|
|Jharkhand Mukti Morcha||2||2|
|Kerala Congress (M)||1||1|
|Lok Jan Shakti Party||6||6|
|Naga Peoples Front||1||1|
|National Peoples Party||1||1|
|Pattali Makkal Katchi||1||1|
|Rashtriya Janata Dal||4||4|
|Revolutionary Socialist Party||1||1|
|Shiromani Akali Dal||4||4|
|Sikkim Democratic Front||1||1|
|Telangana Rashtra Samithi||11||11|
|All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen||1||1|
|Rashtriya Lok Samta Party||3||3|
|Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party||9||9|