Facebook is going to be a destination for various political parties in 2014 Lok Sabha elections for influencing voters. The fortunes of contestants seeking election from 160 constituencies will be determined by Facebook users making them the newest Vote Bank with the power to shape Indian politics.
A new study by IRIS Knowledge Foundation, supported by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) “Social Media & Lok Sabha Elections” states that there will be 160 High Impact Constituencies out of the total of 543 constituencies, which will likely to be influenced by social media during the next general elections.
According to the report, constituencies can be categorised under four heads i.e. High Impact (160), Medium Impact (67), Low impact (60) and No impact (256) constituencies.
High Impact Constituencies will be those where the number of Facebook users are more than the margin of victory of the winner in the last Lok Sabha election and also, where Facebook users account for over 10% of the voting population. Out of total constituencies under the High impact category, Maharashtra has the most High Impact Constituencies (21), followed by Gujarat (17). While Uttar Pradesh has 14, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has 12 , Andhra Pradesh and Kerala has 11 and 10 respectively; Madhya Pradesh has 9 whereas Delhi has only 7 such seats.
Game so far
Rahul Gandhi’s address to the Confederation of Indian Industry, was trending topmost on Twitter in India, some posts by rivals mocking him.
A series of lectures by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, too garnered strong social-media attention this week.
Bihar has unveiled a re-branded campaign called, “Bihar ka haq” or Bihar’s Rightful Cause, on Facebook.
Presently, Congress (AICC) has 59,430, Bhartiya Janta Party 862,635 and Samajwadi Party has 40,982 likes on Facebook.
Social Media Campaign VS Traditional campaigns
Unlike traditional campaigning which is mandatorily required to close 48 hours before the polls, it is unlikely that the Election Commission will be able to enforce silence on social media. Which means that any development even in the hours of polling can potentially influence voter behaviour as the information will spread like wild fire. Even candidates can harness the power of social media to unleash a guerilla campaign on their opponents without giving them the time to respond.
The study underscores the need for the candidates to plan out a well thought social media strategy and allocate proper budget for their campaigns to be effective. As the number of social media users are expected to reach 66 million by June 2013 and the numbers would reach closer to 80 million by 2014 election, means a large share of Indian population will be using social media. The report also states that 25 million strong Indian NRI community who has voting rights would follow elections more closely even if they are not able to be physically present in India to be able to cast their vote, they can be a big influencer too as they are considerably active on social media.