India

With the rise of social media, political parties are going online to mobilise support and raise awareness.

INDONESIA

Sabtu, 09 Nov 2013 13:18 WIB

Author

Shuriah Niazi

India

India, Social Media, election, campaign, Shuriah Niazi

Indians from five states will go to the polls for assembly elections starting this month.

In the state of Madhya Pradesh, assembly elections will be held on November 25.

But this time, campaigning will be a bit different.

Political parties are flocking online to attract voters... making heavy use of social media.

Both the ruling and opposition parties are making sure that their presence is felt online.

“Social media will play a major role in urban areas,” says Tanima Dutta, IT coordinator for the opposition Congress Party.

“In social media people can express their views freely. It’s also important for political parties to have direct contact with their voters, so they know about the party’s view. I understand that you cannot win elections only through social media, but you can create a good impression for yourself.”

The ruling BJP party is aggressively targeting social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

The party has even launched a Facebook application – to merge your photo with a ready-made party banner.

“We are using social media in this elections to the maximum effect,” says Vikas Bondriya, IT coordinator for the BJP.

“We’re interacting with party workers, supporters and the public through social media. We have designed a system so that some campaigns can be run by party workers and politicians. We get help from our supporters to run our social media campaign.”

According to a recent study by the IRIS Knowledge Foundation, most young people in this year’s elections are swing voters. Some 14 million of them, aged between 20 and 29 years.

And young voters like 20-year-old Anupreet Dewedi, who will vote for the first time, are relying on social media to help him decide who to vote for.

“I understand that internet penetration is still low in India, but now a lot of people are using social media through smart phones and other means. I think those parties who are using social media will certainly have an edge over other parties.”

In India, overall internet penetration is as low as 11 percent, with 120 million active users.

But the rise of social media has prompted India’s Election Commission to issue detailed guidelines to regulate internet campaigns on social media.

Advocate Virag Gupta, was responsible for filing the petition to push the Election Commission to create the guidelines.

“A politician cannot promise whatever they like during elections. If he promises something on Twitter or Facebook, it should be controlled. This could only be done through proper guidelines. All the money spent on social media will be included in the upcoming election campaigns too.

According to the guidelines, candidates have to declare all emails and social media accounts used for campaigns. And the Election Committee will have to approve any political ads on websites or social media platforms.

All parties are also required to keep a record of any payments made for campaigns on social media. Each candidate is limited to around 26 thousand US dollars for the assembly elections.

Akshay Rout is the Director General of India’s Election Commission.

“According to the Information Technology Act, social media is similar to electronic and print media. If certification is needed for electronic media, then we should have similar procedures for social media. If we have to regulate election finances and to provide a level playing field in elections, we need to have the guidelines for social media too.”

Candidates from both ruling and opposition parties welcome the guidelines.

“We are ready to provide these things. We are ready to follow the law of the land,” says Vikas Bondriya from the BJP.



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