The Big Picture of Indian Politics, Politicians and Social Media

Laxitha Mundhra writes on the Big Picture of Indian Politics, Politicians and Social Media that helps make or mar people at the top of ministries in India.

Laxitha Mundhra
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The Big Picture of Indian Politics, Politicians and Social Media

In her recent article Nidhi Razdan pointed out a few drawbacks of the Congress Government and all their social media handles went berserk on her. They called her out as BJP bhakt and whatnot, but that's beside the point we'll explore that later)> But here's what caught my attention. In the article, she said, “Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are aggressive, 24x7 politicians. They can’t be fought part-time, or merely on Twitter.” Very true. But this also means that all politicians have been carrying out fights on social media platforms, most prominently Twitter. Additionally, they are making people talk about them in personal, online and public groups.


Overall, while Nidhi tried to point out the problems in the Congress Party, the party supporters did not like the idea and waged war against her (again, on social media). Her sentence, though, makes more sense than the bickering that goes on Twitter these days. And we cannot ignore the fact that politicians have started a one-man-battle on various social media platforms. And not just politicians, but people, too, now aim to reach out to politicians via Twitter or Facebook when in need.

I believe this started when Late Smt Sushma Swaraj as the Minister of External Affairs became a sensation for helping out people who reached to her via Twitter. Later, the Railway Ministry also took a leaf out of her book. They started taking action based on people complaining to them while on the train. Now, if students want answers wrt their exam queries, they bombard Mr Ramesh Pokhriyal's social media pages with tweets and Facebook comments. He, too, aims to talk with them via his posts only.

That is, in their personal capacity, every minister has been trying to outshine themselves via their social media. All you have to is post a Tweet and let the action begin. This is a sign of technological advancement, yet there are both advantages and disadvantages to it. Here's an overview.


‎Participatory role of Politicians via Social Media

With the rise of social media, over the last decade, extensive article, reports, researches show the social media effects on real-life political participation. Many even argue that social media stimulates, both online, and offline political participation. Take a look at how well his PR Agency handles Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Public Relations. From Instagram to YouTube, his presence is commendable and he is active on every occasion - tweeting, taking pictures, keeping the country updated on his whereabouts.

Social Media has changed how politicians can now participate. The where and whataboutery on several occasions has intensified as people have differentiated between the key concept of ‘old’ web and ‘new’ Social Media. All politics was reserved for newspapers and TV - taking pictures, rallies, commenting and interviews. But the current era news channels are now looking on Twitter and Facebook to churn out their stories on the politicians. Many trend reports show that students use social media for political awareness and information. Political efficacy is significantly based on online political participation. In addition to that, social media is a vital platform for netizens to participate in real-life political activities. Thus, politicians have held their grounds on all kinds of social media - text, audio or video.


Creation of Social Media debates via/for Politicians

The Internet and Social Media provide an opportunity for the young population for political discussion through various online groups, pages, and accounts. Thus, in the league, individual politicians are very active. They make comments and carry on a dialogue with the users on their party’s pages and their own pages. They sometimes let influential people contribute a post or a tweet; then let the users do the work (for example Nidhi Razdan's post). A Congress Politician influenced people that her post was defaming Congress, and Congress supporters took the lead; thus, creating a bhakt-non bhakt debate.

This instance shows that their action on social media puts them in the driver's seat where they are directly responsible for their comments. Tejasvi Surya, on one occasion, commented on the plight of women in Arab countries and his tweet didn't go well with the audience. Even after he removed his tweet, it's screenshots were already spreading like a wildfire. This gave him negative publicity as well as people to talk something about politicians, youth, women, feminism, country cultures (a basic package for a non-healthy debate). (It honestly changed my perception of him as a future leader, though). But personal feelings aside, using social media as a place for marketing may have its advantages and disadvantages.


‎Effect on democracy, Misinformation via Social Media and IT Cells

India may have two prominent parties, but others are not very far behind. Whether it is the over scrutinizing BJP IT cell or the over-aggressive Congress IT cell, everyone is a league of their own. The moment a party or its member speaks up, there is a hoard of anti-tweets working their magic. Although this is in the spirit of "democracy", the original content sometimes loses the essence of a conversation. The following public backlash, ensuing debates and fighting - which now is referred to as social media toxicity takes place.

Thus, in the current state, ownership has fallen onto social media platforms to curb misinformation. For example, in a recent series of action, Twitter announced some initiatives to fight misinformation. Since India’s Assembly Elections are not far up ahead,  it aims to set the standards of people's conversation in Indian Election. Among many, Twitter firstly aims to put articles and videos to de-bunk election myths. It aims to educate its members on a fair electoral process.


In the spirit of democracy, this is better than being flooded by the hashtags, tweets and conversations of either of the cells.

Government Regulations

Whenever there is a conflict, the Government's first step is to restrict the Internet and Social Media. India may not be the only one to that (subtle pointing towards China), but right now it is the topic of conversation. From the removal of Article 377 to the Republic Day incident, the Government tried to cut people from Social Networking Sites during such events. The reason is, it restricts people gathering, heated political rebukes and a literary state of war.


Not just that, politicians have known to take a hit at their opposition via words than works. Thus, by regulating mainstream platforms that limit communication, the government refutes conflicts. But technological advancements in communication can increase the power of persuasion; thus, leading to corruption, scandals, and violence on these media platforms.

Impact on Elections

Social media has a profound effect on elections as we are slowly moving from Radio to TV to Twitter updates for decision-making. Researching about a potential leader also means we go through scrutinizing their media platforms. On the other hand, these political leaders have also taken to social media to address their opinions and preach about themselves.


For example, during the US Elections, and the COVID-19 induced lockdown, the Democrats and their supporters heavily relied on online rallies via their social media platforms. Another example that we can take is of Indian Elections in 2014. PM Modi used social media with his distinct style of political communication to build his political agenda and policy crowdsourcing. Later on, his publicity via campaigns, like the Swacch Bharat, encouraged citizens to have first-hand information directly from him. It wasn't someone else putting words into their mouth. The game-changing nature of social media brought him on top of current events and changed people's perceptions.

Presently, too, with elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, people are very much reliant on "what's trending?". Politicians, on the other hand, are busy exploiting the Attention Economy. The term refers to treating human attention as a scarce commodity. In this situation, leaders try to retain the attention of readers by creating a series of controversies around them. They especially work on keeping their name on the top. Thus, readers are constantly coming and going through their name, helping the leaders stay relevant. It does not really an ethical activity, but this way they have the chance to retain viewership. Why? Because public conversation is critical during elections, as the Indian Twitter head puts it. It decides which party will play the picture of its people.

Read moreWhen tech became the media and the message

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