The 2014 general elections could be touted as the coming of age of technology use by the political parties. The Election Commission is estimating first time voters to be a third of the electorate.
According to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB (2013), political parties have increased investment on social media, as vote swinging could affect the result in 24 states. Perhaps this inevitability of social media networks has forced the communication teams of political parties to create 140-character rhetoric to persuade the new voters.
Amid all the political commentaries on the elections, the virtual sphere is equally vibrant with the citizens discussing the parties, leaders and policies. Hashtags; ‘India’s Sarah Palin’, ‘choice is yours’, ‘corruption free India’, ‘more power to the people’, ‘the richest Indian candidates’, ‘political candidates with criminal record’ and more are dominating the conversation in social media. Interestingly these are some of the hashtags, which have appeared on the profiles of NRIs in the United States.
The Indian diaspora is connected and enthusiastically follows elections and news in social media. Recently, the Daily Mail reported that the diaspora, who had financially supported AAP, has decided to discontinue its funding. Its first step was by creating a Facebook page — I am sorry I voted for AAP! Unlike in the past, social media sites are enabling NRIs to participate in the political discussion.
Not to forget the sharing of memes on Indian politics like ‘Prime Ministerial candidate of both parties are unmarried, what a co-accident!’ The usual living room, fury inflated, fist clenching political debate has now moved to the virtual sphere.
And rightly, the 2014 elections have been projected as a ‘social election’ by the pundits. So, what does a social election mean for the political parties and the prime ministerial candidates? Simply put, the political parties can no longer ignore the views of the Indian diaspora. It’s time political parties take heed of this trend.
The diaspora is quite diverse and hopes that the 2014 elections would provide the country a strong government and an emergent global power. Political parties must realise that the diaspora is a potential resource to tap into. The political parties can engage with the diaspora to understand its needs and utilise its experience and expertise to make India a global power.
Pallavi Guha is pursuing PhD at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland
The views expressed by the author are personal