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Indian election debate hijacked by limited social media dialogue

October 22, 2013

By Himanshu Kumar
e8b42bae-5850-4c82-ad97-35697a770f3dIn the run-up to India’s next general elections due to be held in May 2014, large sums of money are being spent for carefully planned social media propaganda. Elections are serious business where the leaders prepare the battlefield with unrealistic promises to woo voters.

But how closely is the reality of social media linked with the reality of casting votes? How do these two reconcile in a nation with less than 12 percent Internet penetration?

The second most populous nation in the world only has about 150 million people with access to Internet and smart phones with just over 80 million being social media users.

This election season in India certainly marks the dawn of a new era where tech gimmicks are in full swing, capturing the minds of more than 715 million voters, with nearly 47 percent of the electorate below 35.

The Indian elections have come a long way since the first general elections were held in 1952. During those years, people were ferried across the rural backwoods to attend clambakes and listen to politicians.

In order to ensure larger attendance for their rallies, free lunches were offered, along with gifts and reasonable amount of pocket money.

Politics and election since then have witnessed an overwhelming change, where even the dhoti-clad politicians of yesteryears are now embracing a tech-savvy approach to reach out to constituents across all demographics.

The ruling Congress Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the principal opposition group, are trying to outmaneuver each other in the social networking domains ahead of high-stakes elections.

Public relations agencies have been roped in to create this space across the cyber platform. Given the total number of social media users across the length and breadth of the country, it’s impossible to forecast which way the Indian voters will turn. Read more in Global Times.

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