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Here’s how social media, digital campaigns are shaping 2022 state elections

Here’s how social media, digital campaigns are shaping 2022 state elections

Political parties as well as independent candidates have reportedly approached a Noida-based digital media company for designing and promoting campaign materials before voting begins on February 10.

In terms of social media presence, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rules the roost across all platforms, followed closely by Congress In terms of social media presence, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rules the roost across all platforms, followed closely by Congress

Ever since the Election Commission of India (ECI) barred political parties from holding huge rallies and gatherings in 5 poll bound states, political parties have been lining up to digital election campaign managers, designers and companies that specialise in digital campaigns.  States where elections are slated to take place this year are Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand.
 
Political parties as well as independent candidates have reportedly approached a Noida-based digital media company for designing and promoting campaign materials before the voting begins on February 10. This company will utilise audio and visual means, animation and digital banner posters to reach out to voters across constituencies.
 
But what do digital election campaigns actually entail? Experts argue that they are not only about circulating and promoting political and electoral campaign material but also reaching out to the electorate through audio and video messages and calls and even using LED screens in small towns and cities and remote villages.
 
In terms of social media presence, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rules the roost across all platforms, followed closely by Congress. Regional players in Uttar Pradesh like the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are far behind in terms of social media numbers. The Uttar Pradesh state units of the BJP and Congress also have a substantial following on Twitter and Facebook respectively.

Graphic: Mohsin Shaikh
Graphic: Mohsin Shaikh

According to the proprietor of the Noida-based digital media company, who goes by the name of Sonal, this is the Internet age and everybody has equal chance but, at the end of the day, it is about which party or candidate has their coffers full to the brim. The party or candidate(s) which have their coffers full, has the ability to spend more, and, thereby, end up getting a more influential campaign with wider reach.
 
But how much do political parties and candidates exactly need to pay for campaigning online? Well, according to Sonal, it can take anywhere from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 15 lakh per month, which can include creating content to designing political strategies for candidates or parties for the purpose of small-scale campaigning.
 
For campaigning at a larger scale or statewide -- which would include social media and digital media calling, messaging and designing strategies -- it goes anywhere between Rs 10 crore to Rs 15 crore per month.
 
These companies specialising in digital campaigns have independent and freelance experts working anonymously for parties and mostly candidates. Information about voters is very much available in the open market, according to some cyber warriors who chose to remain anonymous. According to one such cyber warrior, one can get data on 1 lakh individuals on their phones or emails from any state including the poll-bound states by paying anywhere between Rs 3,000 to Rs 6,000.
 
“We only talk about the privacy of individuals whereas our data is openly being sold in the market which is available to all from insurance selling company to election management strategists. Once they have access to our data, they will decide what drops on our phone and WhatsApp,” one such expert told AajTak. They can also get data for voter list from anywhere, be it Lucknow, Ludhiana, Maharajganj or Manipur in the open market at a nominal rate. Another such expert said that despite tight watch by the Election Commission of India on hateful and violent content on social media platforms, there is a huge demand for propaganda campaigning against opponents as well.
 
(With inputs from Ashutosh Mishra)
 
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