The 2022 state assembly elections have broken many records. Out of the five states that went to the polls, the BJP has won four – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa. For a large part of when the Model Code of Conduct was in force, large gatherings, public rallies, and roadshows were banned by the Elections Commission. That made all political parties sweat, and the BJP was no exception. This was the first election when parties were forced to move away from traditional methods of vote-canvassing and fight crucial polls digitally.
Yet, despite the restrictions, the BJP has managed to sweep Uttar Pradesh and retain power in three other states despite a considerably heavy load of anti-incumbency. What that tells you is that the BJP was able to ace its social media and digital campaigns. Does that come as a surprise? Absolutely not. The Bharatiya Janata Party was the first political entity in India to realise the strength and potential of social media, and since 2014, it has only consolidated its hold over India’s digital platforms.
BJP’s social media Strength
In 2019 itself, the BJP had emerged as the single largest spender on political ads on Google, social media giant Facebook and other sister platforms of the companies, spending upwards of Rs 20 crore through its official accounts. The BJP is estimated to have around 145 – 150 million followers across both PM Modi’s and the party’s social media handles.
Speaking to TOI, BJP’s in-charge of national information and technology department Amit Malviya said, “BJP conducted various virtual rallies which were addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi where lakhs of people were mobilised in several locations keeping the Covid guidelines in mind. The same virtual rallies were viewed by millions of people on their social media accounts and on hand-held devices.”
Digital users in India grew by 108% from 250 million in 2014, to 520 million in 2019 – which was when the last general elections were held. The usage of social media platforms grew by 155% during this period. BJP dominates what such users see and consume on their smartphones, making the party an unparalleled entity on social media.
How social media helps the BJP
The BJP has devised a unique strategy. The saffron party depends on beneficiaries of various central and state government schemes to act as ambassadors of the party. The party has tasked its karyakartas to connect with such beneficiaries to enlist their support, so they can become “digital ambassadors” for the BJP.
The BJP is the only party in India that has a fan following. For many, Prime Minister Modi and top BJP leaders are celebrities. Therefore, ordinary citizens, who might not be BJP’s workers also help the party in more ways than one on social media platforms.
Teenagers and adults alike, who are together categorised as the ‘youth’ have become volunteers for the BJP, helping the party expand its digital footprint and taking its message across to a sea of people.
These people act as catalysts for the BJP’s growth. It is due to the collective power of such digital warriors that the BJP was able to overcome many challenges in pursuing a virtual campaign, especially in Uttar Pradesh.
Traditionally, political parties have depended on cadre and foot soldiers alone. The BJP, however, has been able to weaponize social media to its benefit. Scores of people on social media carry forward the BJP’s message not because they are paid to do so, but because they want to play a role in the party’s growth and continued success across India.
At a time when parties are increasingly feeling the pain of an intense cadre crunch, the BJP is witnessing an upswing in the number of volunteers willing to work for it – free of cost. In the long run, this will ensure that the BJP does not face a shortage of workers and volunteers. Most of the BJP’s social media warriors are young, and they have years in hand to contribute to the party’s growth across India.
There is no party that has a dedicated social media ecosystem that shadows all competition. The BJP is the only dominating force of Indian social media. And that will bear fruits for the party for years to come.