Impact of Social Media on Indian Politics Impact of Social Media on Indian Politics
Even as social media facilitate direct communication between a sender and receiver, it has been used less for the purpose and more for showing maximum number of followers: fake or genuine.
True that social media plays important role in political campaigns, but it doesn’t and it cannot guarantee transforming the same into turnout on polling day; same what used to be the case with election rallies.
Notwithstanding, it will have its effects since urban youth and middle class heavily rely on social media sites including
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google etc for debate, sharing their thoughts and following political parties and politicians for latest update in political circles. They may or may not agree with tweets, or Facebook posts, but for sure they form an opinion on every issue.
Moreover, a recent report released by the Internet and Mobile Association of Indiaand IRIS Knowledge Foundation has revealed that of India’s 543 constituencies,160 can be termed as ‘high impact’ — that is, they will most likely be influenced by social media in the next general elections. As the report explains, high impact constituencies are those where the numbers of Facebook users are more than the margin of victory of the winner in the last Lok Sabha election, or whereFacebook users account for over 10% of the voting population. The study then goes onto declare 67 constituencies as medium-impact, 60 as low-impact and 256 as no-impact constituencies.In 67 other ‘medium-impact constituencies’, Facebook users comprise over 5 per cent of voters. Politicians here, the study says, ‘cannot afford to ignore social media.’
The study certainly seems to echo the general euphoria over social networking as a political tool. However, the number of Facebook users might not translate into any change in voting patterns -– Though high in numbers, 7.8 crore Facebookians and 2 crore Twitteratis make up only 8.5 % of the total Indian population, which means 90 or more percent of Indian voters will vote along more traditional lines such as their religious, political and caste affiliations. Ratnakar Kumar has this to say on this vast divide between the internet haves and the have not, “As you know the number of people active on social networking sites is small when compared to a vast majority of non-internet Indian electorates. However, a socially committed and politically aware 98 million in itself is a huge force to reckon with, especially when the voting turn-out in Indian politics is not always high, 98 million can play a major role.”
The above-mentioned observation has some beef in it, however, what one doesn’t know is how many of these active social networking soldiers are also eligible voters. This fact alone will decide whether social media will play a major role in the general elections 2014 or not. Plus we also need to wait for the next few months as they are crucial since all political parties have gone into the overdrive of pouring millions to revamp their fortunes by trying to attract the voters through social networking.
Right now, there is a small but very active Twitter base in India that is highly political and there are constant fights between the right-wingers and the rest, which can be read as BJP-Congress fights. Major political episodes in the country become trending topics and both sides are able to make TV news headlines quite regularly. However, at this point it would be safe to assume that most middle class Indians experience political activity on Twitter through news reports on TV than actually by engaging with the medium themselves.
Even the politicians who have invested in social media are quite realistic about what it can do for them. Many of them, including Shashi Tharoor and Orissa-based politician Jay Panda admit that people from their own constituency are not following them on Twitter. Therefore, while they can reach a large number of people through the medium, as yet, they cannot swing an election based on social media.