Now, access political candidate fighting election with push of a call on your mobile phone free of cost. In run up to upcoming general elections in India, New Delhi based Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Facebook, social media giant have joined hands to provide citizens up-to-date candidates’ information on the mobile phone in an easy and an accessible way.
The information will be available on upcoming state assembly elections and Parliamentary (Lok Sabha) Elections to help voters make an informed choice.Voters In India will now be able to access election candidates’ criminal, financial, educational, professional etc. information directly on their mobile via Facebook using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD). USSD is a technology that helps people access facebook on phones without Internet. USSD is a technology that all GSM phones (over 90% of all phones today) across prices and complexity are equipped with. USSD allows text experiences on phones that are richer than SMS and cheaper for the user than mobile Internet.
How to access the information on election candidates for free-
Access to information has never been simpler, faster and cheaper — all users have to do is dial *325# from their mobile to access Facebook and select the election menu (option 6) or directly dial *325*35# to access the election menu for no charge.
According to a press release issued by ADR, Voters will be able to know the poll worthiness of candidates — their educational, criminal and financial information — at their fingertips and choose wisely. Simply voting in an uninformed manner is not enough, citizens need to make an informed choice.
The press release quotes Ankhi Das, Director of Public Policy, Facebook India, said, “Over 82 million Indian citizens access Facebook regularly, and an increasing number of users access the platform on mobile. Our goal is to enable citizens to get involved in issues of governance. We are delighted to collaborate with ADR on this important initiative.”
The USSD election feature will allow citizens to access information more easily and will enable them to make an informed choice.
-with inputs from ADR press release.
Narendra Modi, one of the most popular politician on social media platforms in India has latched on to Twitter & the power of film celebrities, Indian cricketing legends and spiritual heads, to woo & encourage first-time voters to register for voting rights for upcoming general elections 2014. The elections will be litmus test for Modi to prove his popularity can convert into votes to reach to the magical figure of 272 to form the government at the Centre.
According to Mint- “The first-time voters, estimated from the Census data stacks up to 149.36 million—the Election Commission estimates the total number of voters to be 725 million.”
Modi in his first tweet mentioned “studies point to several ‘eligible’ voters who are yet unregistered. Are you one of them? Now is the time to get registered ASAP ! and followed by this tweet ” I request prominent voices on social media to promote voter registration among youngsters & strengthen our democracy.
Later, Modi in his flurry of tweets mentioned twitter handle of prominent celebrities from Bollywood, like Amitabh Bachchan(6.30million), Shah Rukh Khan(4.98million), Amir Khan(4.66 million), Salman Khan(4.88 million), Hrithik Roshan(4.08million), Deepika Padukone(4.18million), cricketing legend, Sachin Tendular(3.66million), and spiritual head his Holiness Dalai Lama (7.71million) among others and wrote “lets encourage voter registration among 18-24 yr olds. Large number of them are unregistered. EC drive presently underway.”
Modi has 2.34 million followers till now on Twitter. Recentky, Bharatiya Janta Party(BJP), the main opposition party in India anointed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as prime ministerial face for upcoming election.
Interestingly, he in his tweet mentioned his bete-o-noire Prime Minister Manmohan Singh official PMO twitter handle to encourage young voters to participate in due Parliamentary election. Also, Shashi Tharroor (1.90million), Minister of State for Human Resource Development and one the most vocal critic of Modi on social media platforms was mentioned by Modi to woo youths for voter registration. It would be interesting to see whether,Modi’s MT gets RTs by the likes of PMO and Shashi Tharror !
In the recent months, youths & their issues are focal point & recurring theme of all Modi’s political speeches since his elevation as BJP Election Campaign Committee Chief. Recently during Rewari rally largely of ex-servicemen, Modi made an emotive appeal to young audience to get themselves registered for voting rights and also encourage other in family, friends and relatives to do it.
According to recently released report, published on Mint- “Show that the overwhelming demography of India is young. “The population of the country below 35 years of age is 51.8%. Of this 48.2% are women and 51.8% are men, 30.1% reside in urban areas and 69.9% is based in rural India. Significantly, the Census numbers estimate the population in the critical demography category of 18-35 years of age to be 31.3%%. Not only does this demography dominate spending in the rapidly growing consumer economy, it is also likely to be critical in the context of the general election due by May 2014.”
Politics & social media are getting entwined every other day. But , whether twitter RTs, and MTs, can translate into VOTE is the moot question !
Links for voter registration in India only : Election Commission of India (http://eci.nic.in/eci_main1/index.aspx)
Suave, polished and soft spoken, Shashi Tharoor was among the first in Indian politicians to hitch the bandwagon of Twitter in Year 2009. At that time many from opposition parties and within his own political circles had scoffed at the idea of connecting with the masses in 140 characters, that too online. His personalized & engaging tweets from films, sports, social issues and politics, got popular and now he is one of the darling politician on twitter.Now, every politician wants to get ‘followed’ on virtual world. Tharoor official webpage introduces him as an “Author, United Nations peace-keeper, refugee worker, human rights activist, Minister of State for Human Resources Development, an elected member of the Indian Parliament from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in Kerala and a former Minister of State for External Affairs, Dr. Shashi Tharoor straddles several worlds of experience.”
Tharoor Current Social Media Reach
Mr Tharoor has confined his social media outreach to Twitter only. Mr Tharoor boasts of 18 lakh Twitter followers in his kitty. Recently, he has been anointed as one of the leader to counter the propaganda against the Congress party on social media sites, especially on Twitter. He is known vocal critic of Narendra Modi and his policies on social media platforms.
His official personal website has only twitter links displayed prominently. However, Tharoor has no official presence on Facebook which has over 76 million users in India and also not on You Tube , the world’s largest online video-sharing platform, has more than a billion unique users every single month.
The “Cattle Class Tweet” which cost Tharoor his Ministerial Post.
Tharoor journey with twitter has been roller coaster ride. No one can forget including Mr. Tharoor the “cattle class” tweet which created an uproar inside the parliament and outside of it. Mr Tharoor had
tweeted “Absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows” while travelling in an economy class of an airline.
The said tweet generated so much heat that for Congress led UPA government amid huge protests within the party and from opposition members that Mr. Tharoor had to resign from the post of Minister of External Affairs. He maintains that the tweet was ‘misinterpreted’.
Tharoor Views on Social Media Role in Politics
Tharoor in his recent media interaction with The Open Magazine said , ” First, though only about 10-12 per cent of the Indian electorate is on the internet, the fact remains that it’s not just the people who [you are] directly reaching through social media that you are reaching. What you put out on social media may be directly interacting with 10-12 per cent. But it is mined by media, gets out by newspaper or television.”
“The second reason it is important is… There’s a study by a group called Iris Media which has established that in 160 of our country’s 543 constituencies, there are more social media users than the gap [in votes] between the [candidates who came] first and second and the last election—the margin of victory is smaller than the number of social media users in that constituency. So in 160 constituencies, it is a politically relevant number. other constituency we won by 10,000 votes, there are more than 10,000 social media users. So that becomes a very important factor.
In his another interview to IANS in August, 2013. Tharoor said, “Social media shouldn’t be ignored. There are 10-12 percent of people who are using Internet. 70 percent of the Indian citizens have mobile phones in their hand. When there will be a convergence of the two, when 4G will replace 3G, then people will not have trouble to go on the net and it won’t be so expensive also.
And Congress’s best bet to tackle #NaMO brigade on social media would be none other than Tharoor himself. It would be interesting to watch political twitter wars ahead.
-By Kumar Manish
Inputs- The Open Magazine & IANS
Posts, tags, views, shares on popular social media platforms are fuelling the political debate in the country today. Not a single day gone by, when a tweet from politician has not become trending topic, even controlling the day agenda whether it is newspapers or in TV debates.The politicians jumped to the bandwagon of Social Media in the last one year after the hype created by Narendra Modi’s (NaMo) social media campaign and the mainstream media highlighting it. Most of the politicians still have no clue on how to make the maximum use of power of Social Media except few likes of union minister Shashi Tharoor, among the first to be active on social media platforms & former central minister Ajay Maken who is now spearheading Congress response to Modi on social media platforms.The only thing that most of the politicians understand is the number of likes that they have on their Facebook page or the number of followers on twitter, etc. For them it’s just a number game, but in reality its counter productive as most of the numbers that you see for politicians are the numbers that are bought through countless sites selling you fans & followers.
Modi’s Social Media Foot Prints
Modi’s social media setup was done in May 2009 when FB just started penetrating in India and he and his team had the vision to build it from that instance. The major spurt in NaMo social media has come in last 9-10 months, where from a million fans in November 2012, he is now at nearly 3.2 million fans on FB alone. Twitter has 2.16 million followers which has again increased by nearly 1.2 million in last one year.
His social media footprints are omnipresent- Be it Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, Stumbleupon and also specially designed downloadable android, iphone & ipad application. His official promotional website video in succinct tone invites users to have a ‘direct connect’ with him through social media platforms.
Modi’s social media strategy? Personalized & engaging tweets. He tweets in English & Hindi and in 12 other different languages including Urdu. Regular Face book post updates. Connecting on Google Hangouts. And his very own YouTube channel with over 17 million views. Today, Modi is aiming for the highest office in one of the largest democracy. And he is leaving no stone unturned to connect to billion plus India, majority comprising of young population. More than half of 1.2 billion people are under the age of 25, and two-thirds are below 35. According to an estimate, 85 percent of young India is connected through social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.
The Politics of Tweets & FB Posts
Youths & their issues are focal point & recurring theme of all Modi’s political speeches since his elevation as BJP Election Campaign Committee Chief. For example, Modi for his Pune speech requested through Social Media platforms for ideas and suggestions for that speech.Modi is utilizing & exploiting social network platform as a means of encouraging youth engagement, direct feedback system —has allowed him to create a conversation, and often times an open dialogue, with the public. However, whether this click of mouse for ‘Like’ or ‘Retweet’ on Modi’s popular post or tweets will translate into crucial vote for him or BJP during upcoming General elections is yet to be seen.
Juggernaut of the Political cyber Warriors
According to sources-The NaMo Social Media campaign is headed by an Officer on Special Duty(OSD) under direct & close supervision of Narendra Modi and an entire team is set up at Chief Minister Office in Gandhinagar for creating content, tracking responses, selecting the best responses, ideas, etc. and sharing with Narendra Modi. The team uses latest tools to shuffle through the enormous responses generated to Narendra Modi’s posts and tweets and tracks each and every moment that is happening online related to Narendra Modi.
Apart from the in-house team, NaMo has thousands of dedicated volunteers spread across India, who spearhead his campaign and make it go viral or if there is an attack on him, then create the counter attack and spread it across the Social Media Channels. One of the young volunteers who is part of clandestine social media gatherings apart from core team who wished not to be named stated it is more to do with “emotions than monetary benefits”.
As one of the close associates quips that the next phase for NaMo is taking the likes to convert into votes through major interaction online. Others are still juggling with numbers forget about the interactions. To support the claim, there is a clear comparison between the comments that each post or tweet receives and no other politician in India is even remotely close to Narendra Modi’s interaction level.
The Most mentioned politician
In the recently released June edition of ‘Blogworks India’s Most Mentioned Political Leaders’ -Narendra Modi continues to be at the top with contrasting conversations happening on having ‘maintained law and order in Gujarat since 2003 resulting in the state remaining riot-free’, and ‘about his alleged role in the 2002 riots and criticized his communal image’. Blogworks analyses online mentions of the top 20 political leaders in India. Modi comes across as a polarizing figure on social media platforms too. There are only two kinds of people exists online who debates on & around Modi- One die-hard Modi Fans and other Modi bashers. There is no middle ground.
Whether Like & Share Converts into Crucial Votes
India’s large population and increasing tele-density, especially in urban pockets, has spurred an impressive jump in the number of people online. Moreover, a recent report released by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and IRIS Knowledge Foundation has revealed that of India’s 543 parliamentary constituencies, 160 can be termed as ‘high impact’ — that is, they will most likely be influenced by social media in the next general elections. As the report explains, high impact constituencies are those where the numbers of Facebook users are more than the margin of victory of the winner in the last Lok Sabha election, or where Facebook users account for over 10 per cent of the voting population. The study then goes onto declares 67 constituencies as medium-impact, 60 as low-impact and 256 as no-impact constituencies.
The fastest growing market for FB is India and currently there are around 88 Million users in India and out of that nearly 76 Million users who are eligible to vote. These figures are what is pushing Indian politicians to the frenzy and everyone wants a big piece out of the Social Media cake.
The major focus of the NaMo team is to generate offline activism from the online interaction and nudge the online community to start offline campaigns too. The focus is to generate buzz for maximum youth participation in the coming election as that is what can be a big game changer. As on online front, Narendra Modi has clear edge over all the politicians in India. In fact his online fan base on FB is more than the combined strength of top 10 opposition leaders in the country. His messages generate response, his messages are shared, discussed, interacted and this is helping him to add to his fan following in big way. There is also a strategy going on where lots of popular Narendra Modi pages are getting merged with the official page of Narendra Modi, which is also resulting in increase of fans and also it helps in consolidation of the online structure.
Internet, a Rarity & Privilege in 1.2 billion Strong India
However, in a 21-nation survey conducted by the US-based nonpartisan fact tank- Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project in 2012, quote – ‘India ranked near the bottom in use of social networking sites, along with its neighbor,Pakistan. Just six percent of respondents in India said they use social networking sites. An overwhelming 89 per cent said they do not use the internet at all. Notably, a majority of Indians who use the internet are using social networking sites. Just 13 per cent of Indians use the internet, according to International Telecommunication Union. The internet still remains a rarity in India’. The same study says, that 65 per cent American adult has an access to internet.
Apart from Social Media, Narendra Modi is also setting trends in use of digital technology to the maximum. His own mobile app is getting regular downloads now and it’s a clear case that he is leading the way in use of technology while the rest are trying to replicate what he is doing.
Another team member of Narendra Modi said, “I think with traditional media you used to get just one message out to the public and it didn’t have that feedback response; with the social web you can see how those conversations are actually happening and it’s an opportunity for them to engage. Social media has a great potential in bringing democracy to every citizen’s home, but we first need to motivate people to participate.”
NaMo has given a clarion call during his Hyderabad speech, with co-opted lines of US President Barack Obama- ‘Yes we can. Yes we will’. Can NaMo do a Barack Obama ? Only 2014 parliamentary election results will tell. Till then enjoy the social media political war games !
By -Kumar Manish(@kumarmanish9), Communications & Social Media Strategist & Co -initiator of Open Hours.co.in, a social initiative to bring diverse views on future of social media and Akshay Sethia Chief Executive Officer of a digital marketing firm based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat .