Prince Singhal 
Student, Indian Statistical Institute

Archit Aggarwal
Kolkata Management Consultant, Accenture India


India, the largest and most diverse democracy in the world has a fully-fledged political system. Increasing dependence on technology is a welcome step for Indian elections. Today, the technology is democratizing and reshaping means of control in low- and middle-income countries and the political apparatuses are using technology tools to reinforce their agendas. The amalgamation of social media and election campaigning has clearly redefined the face of political movements in India. The political campaigns are reaching a fever pitch in the elections which will be considered a critical juncture in the modern history of the country. Compared to technologically-driven campaigns in other countries, India is a basket case. Rather than reaching out to individual subscribers — as is the case worldwide — Indian political parties has managed to rally voters around advanced technological platforms. Social scientific studies of the effects of advertising in political issues suggest that exposure to advertising makes voters more familiar with the sponsoring candidates, and direct their attention to specific issues or topics which then become the principal yardsticks for evaluating the candidates. Through this paper we are going to study the impact of various factors of technology on the Indian political communication system. The factors include understanding the medium, online property authenticity, consistency, credibility, call to action and grass root movement. Indian politics need to utilize the digital media literacy of the youth of the country to build community digital media systems-public spaces- to communicate political ideologies and views. This paper will study the use of technology in past elections and examine its success and failure in India’s diverse landscape. The paper will conclude with recommendations regarding the use of a modernized version of political communication as a new form of candidate outreach and also suggestions to enhance the use of digital technology as a potent political communication tool in India.

Keyword: technology, diversity, democracy, political, system

Research Article:

IT+IT= IT. Indian Talent + Information technology= India Tomorrow.

Political communication in India is an intricate and complex balance: intricate because it is a logistical nightmare to conduct voting across the geographical and cultural landscape of India, the second most populated country in the world; complex because politicians have to communicate to the largest and most diverse democratic electorate base in the world- a base that consist of voters from 29 different states and 7 union territories that are home to approximately 1 billion Indians. Each state in India has its own language, culture, major religion and certainly, it is on problems. To solve these problems and to better serve the people each state has a numerous parties at the local, district and state level. Given its size and diversity, each state in its own right could be treated as a country in itself.

India has the biggest number of people with franchise rights and the largest number of political parties, which take part in election campaign. The process of election in India is less than perfect. Every year there are news reports about corruption, violence and the exchange of money and alcohols for votes during elections. Dirty laundry and slanderous statements are aired by the dozen. However, what ultimately wins an election is the promise for a better India that motivates the voters to cast their ballot. Before understanding political communication in India and the use of technology in service to politics, one must understand Indian voters and Indian political parties.

In recent times, the most important electorate segment is the youth of India.40% of Indians are under the age of 18 and 70% are under the age of 35. From 1998 elections, the electorate demographic majority has been centering towards the youth.

With such a complex political system and a huge diverse electorate base, political communication in India is difficult. Each tool used has varied effects, depending on the targeted audience and location. To understand the place of digital technology as a political communication tool, it is important to study previous political campaigns and their use of technology.


The methodology involved collection of facts from government reports, press releases and interaction with people having basic understanding of the election procedure as primary data. The secondary data includes a series of journal articles and newspaper reports on the issue. This data was used to analyze the issue of technology-effect on politics and to come to better understanding of the different perspectives of the same. A detailed study is being done on election methods and political communication in India in the range starting from pre-internet era to internet-era. Statistical mapping and visual data has also being added for a better understanding of the issue. Also a SWOT analysis is being done to identify the strength, weakness, opportunities and threats for the technology usage in Indian politics.


The most common form of political communication in India is public meetings. Initially used during India’s freedom struggle, this form of communication overcomes two of the biggest barriers of communicating in India: diversity and language.

Up until the 1980s, political communication in India was largely grassroots, door to door campaigns, print ads, graffiti and public meetings. However, the 1989 election introduced the use of technology for mainstream campaigning.

Political parties use radio and television as an effective tool for campaigning. These mediums were used to play key messages and slogans, party songs and symbols and often relayed party speeches. Trucks filled with equipment, known as Video-on-Wheels, showed these video cassettes to villagers that did not have equipment to do so themselves. They were like theatres- on-wheels, often acting as a form of escapist entertainment for the rural population of India who rarely got to view recorded material of any sort. With limited or no other source of information, these people often believed what was being shown to them regardless of whether it was true or not.

Technology can be used as a tool but not as the core tool in a political campaign. Most important, regardless of the tools used, if the voters are unable to resonate with the party’s promises and trust its leader, no amount of campaigning can help win an election.

From 1989 to 2000, the use of technology has been static. Tools such as grass-root, door-to-door, print ads, bill board and television campaigns were being tapped by parties of all statures. What had changed, however, were political messages. They reflected the instability and volatility in India. The country is changing, but the means to speak to her were still stagnant. This would soon change. Old mediums were used with new vigor and new mediums were introduced.

The future of political communication is changing in India. The voters, too, were more informed due to liberalization of media. The newspaper industry is booming and information was being disseminated widely and at a much quicker pace. With a more informed voter base, political strategies of the past were less likely to work. People are actively consuming information, leading to a shift in the way political communication.


2004 National Election is best described by Gopal jaylal N:

“ The Indian parliamentary Election 2004 was an election of many firsts: it was the first Lok sabha election of twenty first century : it was the first election in which the political communication came to be conducted in the corporate vocabulary of image making ,branding &marketing: it was the first election after first ever non congress Government completed a full term in office :and it was the first election after which elected leader of single largest party declined Prime Ministership and nominated another.”

In these elections, political parties turned to Internet and mobile technology – the two mediums that were neither used nor regulated in prior elections. In These elections, India first time used the electron voting machine (EVM) across her length and breadth as compared to previous ballot paper that can be easily rigged. Technology as a tool to ease governance was slowly catching wind with launch of Government websites that helped address citizen problems and actively gave information about elections, voting centers and registration process. If we look for statistics,

Figure 1

In 2004, the serving BJP broke away from this pattern with its aggressive nation-wide ‘India Shining’ campaign. It recruited advertising and PR agencies to manage its campaign, focused on the urban first time voter, advertised heavily on print and television, and also used e- campaigning, to give a facelift to its website, pushing out text messages, pre-recorded voice clips and emails to its database of email & telephone users, and offering campaign related mobile ringtones for download. In spite of its “failure”, BJP’s India Shining campaign has set the pattern for all Indian election campaigns since then: spend 40-50% on print, 20% on outdoors, 15% on TV, 5%-10% on internet and mobile and the rest on radio, film theaters and on-ground activities (Live Mint). BJP’s main rationale was to reach to everyone through all available media outlets with one consistent message: The shining India. It is estimated that BJP called close to 72 million people – 46 million people on fixed lines and 26 million on mobiles. This created a media frenzy. On the other hand , Congress party hired Orchard Advertising and Public relation. They ran slogans like “5 crore jobs were promised ,Aam Admi ko kya mila ?” There were plenty of tools to communicate with audience but all limited to mobile and internet technology. The 2004 election led foundation to use these tools effectively foster interactive communication in the elections to come.


Besides change in voter’s mind and politicians’ outlook towards communication, corporate India, too, were aware and pursuing social aware projects during election campaign period. Tata, one of the leading company started Jago re movement to aware voters to vote .

A initiative Vote Report India came into place with having a intention of making our voting system transparent. Google in corporation with Hindustan Times made a page of aggregated content for Indian elections which made easy for everyone to stay informed and get in touch with updates. Similarly Indian news channels, papers , radios even exclusive online news outlet

devoted entire sections on their websites to cover , report and aggregate news on 2009 elections. BJP started paid online advertisement based on the Google search adds and party bought as many as 200, 000 keywords , placement adds across 50,000 websites and banner add across 2, 000 websites. Besides online banner adds , BJP mimicked Obama’s online campaigning ,hoping to recruit 10,000 volunteers through Advani’s website. The thought behind “Advani@campus” was to recruit 100 college students and euip them with publicity material so that they could use to influence and hopefully convert their peers to party’s ideology. “Bloggers for Advani“, join BJP through facebook and Orkut’s profile were managed by BJP supporters.overall BJP’ online strategy was in sync with their campaigning. While Congress had hardly any presence online.

This party still focused on “aam aadmi “ , and emphasized three concepts : secularism , good governance and growth.


The 2014 Lok Sabha Elections in India as dubbed by CNN can truly be categorized as “India’s first Social Media Elections”. The Political parties as well as candidates in the fray exploited the resources of new media, specially the social media in the process of their election campaigning. There are 815 million people eligible to vote in the general elections; of that figure an estimate over 100 million are registered first time voters and fall under the age of 25, categorized as youth. IRIS stated that out of the 543 constituencies, 160 were high impact zones of the social media and 67 constituencies were identified as medium impact zones, while the rest were classified as low or no impact zones. They were categorized on the basis of internet and Facebook users in each constituency. It concluded saying that the high impact zones have the potential of being the major game changers’ in 2014 elections. Politicians for filling their vote bank were not only accessing social media to network but they are targeting the youth primarily, which this time accounts for an estimated 100 million plus. Social media presence is expected to be a key platform for reaching out to the electorate, especially the youth warming up to exercise their right for the first time Politics. An analysis of the affidavits filed by the candidates of the various constituencies and political parties’ show that most of the candidates, cutting across parties and age groups presence on multiple social media platforms

Figure- 2

Revenue generated by social media and Data analytical companies due to elections has substantially increased perhaps two or three times than ever before.

The Pitch Madison Media Advertising Outlook 2014 estimates, released on 19 February, forecast the digital medium to contribute Rs.3,950 crore (Rs. 39.5 billion or $658.33 million @exchange rate of 1USD = INR 60) in 2014. Most of it coming during elections.

“Online as a medium to reach voters has become a really powerful one for the parties, so spending on digital will only continue to grow,” said Asheesh Raina, principal research analyst at Gartner Inc.

Congress, Law Minister Kapil Sibal , Congress leader and former Union Minister Ajay Maken , Shashi Tharoor , Ghaziabad candidate Shazia Ilmi from the Aam Aadmi Party , BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Modi and AAP Chief Arvind Kejriwal are among the high profile contestants who mostly express their views through the social media, primarily Twitter , Google Plus, YouTube and Instagram .

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) This party has been successful in utilizing IT & Social Media platform to engage and communicate with their audience about upcoming rallies, events, list of candidates, speeches of their candidates, graphics & videos, and persuasive appeals to contribute & donate for vision of an advanced India through the integration of platforms like Facebook, Google Hangouts, Mobile Apps, Twitter, Youtube, Whatsapp. The videos uploaded on youtube are focused mainly on bringing issues related to corruption and scams into light, speeches from Arvind Kejriwal & other prominent leaders, Hangouts and Questions & Answer sessions with leaders as well as coverage of events & rallies and calls for donations. The Aam Aadmi Party after setting up the Government in the State of Delhi, in January started a free membership drive, wherein all one had to do was send an SMS

(Short Messaging Service) or make a missed call at the toll-free number (7798220033). By the end of the day the campaign was launched AAP already had about 60,000 members registered through the process and thus Arvind Kejriwal put a target to reach 1 crore members by the 26th January 2014. The Party apart from using these tools did not forget those who do not have internet but just a phone, although they may not have been able to attract them much, but SMS messages and telephone calls on festival days with the appeal to vote for the party, were also a major part of their campaign in the initial stages. Arvind Kejriwal has about total of 5 million fans on Facebook. His page has tabs for Events, Donation and Invite. Some of the posts are dedicated to declaring the donations made to AAP, in keeping with the party ideology of honesty and transparency

Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP): The Bhartiya Janata Party in its campaign this season has left no stone unturned in reaching out to the new and existing voters’ population through digital and social media. BJP is approaching the 4 million fans mark on facebook, and has recorded over 7 million views on youtube and more than 45,000 subscribers. The party has a very strong presence on twitter with over 400,000 followers. It uses twitter in a significant manner by using hash tags which are in sync with running campaigns like#ModiForPMFund, #AbkiBaarModiSarkaar, #ChaiPeCharcha. The party also trends on user generated hash tags like #WhyPMModi, #BJPAnthem. The mobile application of the BJP, India 272+ provides an Online Platform where Volunteers can Collaborate, Contribute & Campaign. It also facilitates one-to- one communication with the candidates. The campaign launched a special NaMo Number. An SMS, missed call, or WhatsApp message to 78200-78200 added the user to BJP’s database as a potential volunteer. Campaign sources say they receive an average of 100,000 missed calls on a daily basis, and that the total interactions with people through this service has now hit 130 million-more than half of the campaign’s total outreach. a fleet of GPS-fitted vans, or digital raths, drove to village squares across Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and played clips of Modi’s speeches on 55-inch LED screens. The last, and perhaps most effective tool, was the 3D rallies which started on April 10, one month before the last day of campaigning. Modi’s experiment with 3D holograms during the 2012 Gujarat Assembly elections had got him a place in the Guinness World Records for delivering a speech to 53 locations simultaneously. The hi-tech campaign has taken the Modi wave many miles further.A.

Indian national congress: Following the assumption that ‘it’s never too late’ party joined the social media bandwagon getting more active on their facebook page & twitter handle, reworked their website, YouTube channel , volunteers platform Khidkee , Whatsapp and Line extensions. The congress enjoys over 2 million supporters on facebook. The party’s communication online is aimed at building a culture of positive, polite and dignified engagement over serious political issues.The hashtag #RGExposesBJP & #KattarSochNahiYuvaJosh was launched as a pre cursor to Rahul’s rally. The Youtube channel for Congress has mere 5,000 subscribers, with about 8 million views registered till date. Congress is the only political party to harness Instagram for connecting with the masses at their preferred social media network.


Gone are the days when social media platforms were only being used for making social circles and forming connections. The reach and impact of social media has now gone a notch up in India. when it comes to discussing critical or sensitive issues like politics, corruption, poverty and economy social media takes the first position.In 2004 , Shyam Tekwani and Kavita Shetty , in the book “The Internet and National Election” conducted a comprehensive study on the use of internet in 2004 elections, concluded that engagement on most websites was limited to contact forms and rarely provided a option for being a volunteer and to vote. They said that economic

divide between rich and poor , haves and have not , in Indian is wide and recent emerging growth in technology has not help to bridge this gape. Besides the barrier of reach , content was mostly available in English , and only small content was in Indian languages , which limited the reach of

Figure- 3

But in 2009, Advani@campus campaigning recruited 7000 volunteers who were tasked to advertise Advani’s website and social media profiles and translating sections of website into

many different Indian language , designing banner ads and helping in other campaigning work. Moreover there were 54 million computer literate in India in 2004 but that increased to 95 million in 2009 and 243,198,922 in 2014.

Moreover internet once was considered privilege of educated and elite class, it is now available to common man. As it was only one way communication system earlier, later politicians made it open to common man to reply and to register. Initially mobiles were used for making call and texting but later on it was equipped with GPS, cameras and most important internet . Now a days one in every five mobiles is used to access internet.


In a modern democracy, social networking sites have been used by governments to involve citizens in decision-making, and by civil society to engage people in specific issues. However social networking sites can also be used to broaden political participation by helping citizens to communicate with their representatives and with each other. Here is how social media played a vital role in the most influential elections in India.

  1. Political parties formed direct connection with users:-. Social media was not only a way for our netas to make a difference, but it also gave a chance to people to comprehend each other’s mind-set and influence opinions by sharing knowledge and spreading awareness on a personal level.
  2. Bypassed the mainstream media:-. The dedicated pages and accounts of parties continuously promoted images, videos, important actions/activities to stay connected with their followers, who can get minute to minute updates through their Smartphone when on the move. Through micro-blogging sites like Twitter and Tumblr these parties’ reached out to vast number of voters and pulled them into the conversation apart from updating and educating them.
  3. Helped in boosting the image of politicians:- Just like big brands, politicians also used social media platforms to boost their image. Every time Modi had gone on a rally, there was an update on Facebook and Twitter. Modi is smart enough to know that not everyone has time to attend rallies and campaigns, so his party turned all the offline campaigns into online campaigns and got connected with people who were not a part of their offline campaigns.
  4. Powerful media for the freedom of speech:-Last but not the least; social media is an incredible platform to express your thoughts, share knowledge and spread awareness. When people get the right to express themselves, it becomes easier for politicians to know their interests and inclinations.

Here we’ll look Why technology is affecting Indian Politics

  1. Reach:- India is second largest populated country of world. To reach to 120 million voters of the India is a very difficult which now has become very easy with help of new
  2. emerging technology. New media is decentralized and distinguished by multiple production & utility points.
  3. Accessibility:- Social media tools and networking sites are available for use of people at little or no cost.
  4. Usability: Present social media does need the skills of being aware of basic usage of computer & internet, hence can be used by anyone with access to the new media.
  5. Immediacy:- The previous methods of campaigning use a longer time, which could be anywhere from a day to a few months, social media has a distinct advantage over the them as it is capable of accommodating instantaneous replies. Immediacy does benefit traditional methods in the way that the information that is disseminated can be authenticated before publication, which makes it more authentic the social media.
  6. Fundraising:- Raising revenue for a political campaign is one of the biggest hurdles the candidates have to overcome in order to make a successful political run. By using TV , Internet , mobile as the medium to convey the message expenses of organizing rallies and any social events can be minimized.


The recommendations and suggestions for the best practices for use of digital technology as political communication tools are derived from three basic points about social media and digital technology.

1. To influence local online community and increase trust.

2. To bring about substantial change in the offline world.

3. To build and nurture an environment that creates solutions for existing local problems and concerns.

Best practices:

  1. Educate leaders: Besides hiring skilled professionals, it’s important for party leaders who plan to convey the party’s ideologies through required medium should be educated about it.
  2. Own your online property: There should be no ambiguity in the minds of the voters regarding who owns the online profile. Each profile should have a uniform and specific look and should be officially verified by mediums that provide such service, for example Twitter. Such openness would help cultivate trust and open dialogue.
  3. Own your online property for a long period: One of the main advantages of using digital technology is that it facilities trust. If a political party begins to build and interact only during the election time, the purpose of the medium is defeated. Trust and community takes time to
  4. build. Therefore, prior to the election, parties should begin interacting online. This would help gauge the mood of the community and help build trust.

Consistency: There should be a central policy and purpose for the use of these mediums. In addition, there should also be consistency in posting messages, conversing and informing

  1. Local politicians should encourage and actively seek and record public queries and request on camera. Using sites such as YouTube they should record their replies and show completed work or request. This would do two things, build trust and slowly build an online community.
  2. Personalization: the internet and mobile technology cannot be used in the same capacity as mass media tools. On the contrary, these mediums have brought about personalization to an extent never seen before, making it easier to target people according to location, demographic and preferences.
  3. Target youth: a special effort should be made to target the youth community online. Parties should conduct research and analyze issues that matter most to this demographic. It should then create an initiative for the youth and the youth, by addressing issues that matter to them and by giving them the means to make a difference, it would help build trust and move online conversation to offline action.
  4. Mobile technology: Parties should facilitate and even fund mobile technology applications that bring value to the community such as local train and bus services timetable applications, safety information and applications to report crime or government faults. If parties do decide to charge for these applications, they could use the money for their campaigns or towards a social cause.

Regarding the way of voting we can admire following points:-

  1. Ranked Choice Voting: Gives voters the option to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish without fear that ranking less favored candidates will harm the chances of their most preferred candidate. It Empowers voters with more meaningful choice and Minimizes strategic voting. It creates a positive atmosphere where candidates campaign to the voters rather than against each other.
  2. In current scenario, A large number of people live or work at a place which is far away from their constituency. So, allowing any Indian to vote for their constituency from any polling booth will greatly boost the total vote percentage.
  3. Making a touch screen voting machine with display showing the photos of the candidates along with their basic bio-data and party details would be a great idea.
  4. A Government approved card such as aadhar card which can be snipped in the voting machine just like the ATM machines can improve the votting authenticity. (There shouldn’t be any way to track the users votes, it is just meant for additional layer of authentication.)
  5. There should be a cancellation button in EVM machine if someone presses a button for another candidate by mistake.
  6. Right to vote, as in voting for everyone should be made compulsory.
  7. Last but not least, there should be a arrangement for taking finger prints in EVM machine itself to avoid any fraud voting.


“The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe out every tear from every eye. This may be beyond us but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.

-Jawaharlal Nehru

While we have developed recommendations and suggestions for the use of digital technology for political communication in India, the technology itself will likely evolve by the time the next elections occur. Regardless of the evolution of the medium, what will not change is the trust, credibility and openness the medium thrives on. Although digital technology seems like a viable tool for political communication, it only affects a small percentage of the population. However, political strategists must keep in mind that regardless of how frequently and broadly digital technology is used; its main purpose must be to initiate offline actions. It is this conversion from the virtual world to the real world that will truly affect results in an Indian political election. Previous digital campaigns were designed to spread brand awareness and take part in the conversation. The key to a successfully digital campaign for politics in India will depend on the way parties connect, converse and convert voters to advocate for their parties. More importantly, its success will depend on how many advocates physically vote in favor of the party, hence completing the circle from connection to conversation and ultimately conversion to action.


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