Away from the political mud-slinging unfolding at poll rallies across the state, more risque versions have been gathering steam in the virtual world. With just a day left for curtains to come down on election campaigns, chat groups and social media pages are being bombarded with muck-soaked memes.
For instance, one meme shows Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray outmuscle Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah inside a free-style wrestling ring. Another shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding a placard seeking votes from a party other than the BJP.
“Memes normally work well in grabbing eyeballs. But this time, the response has been particularly good among youngsters,” said a person in charge of a political party’s social media campaigns requesting anonymity.
Poll slogans have become the ideal fodder for jokes doing the rounds on WhatsApp groups. The BJP’s poll slogan ‘Arey kuthe nehun thevlay Maharashtra majha?’ (What have they reduced my Maharashtra to?), for instance has become a funny quip among smartphone users. Even the Sena’s ‘Majha naav Shiv Sena’ (My name is Shiv Sena) has been used to poke fun at the party.
While memes are expected to have little impact on voters’ decision, they can influence young voters. “Young unbiased voters seldom have knowledge about issues. Hence, these memes could generate top of the mind recall for a particular political party,” said city-based psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty.
He added that poll propaganda is most effective if the memes have resonance with the political personality featuring in them. “A meme featuring a politician known for his or her inflammatory oratory has better chances of connecting with the audience if it captures that aspect of their personality,” he added. Social watchdogs collecting voters’ feedback from poll campaigns, however, felt that a majority of voters take memes with a pinch of salt.
“Our assessment of voters’ feedback showed that a majority of voters are upset because all political parties have failed to address issues. Almost every poll speech focused on showing rival parties in poor light,” said Sharad Kumar, trustee of the city-based Action for Good governance and Networking in India.