The Bharatiya Janata Party is one of the premier political parties in India founded in 1977. It has a strong right wing ideology and traditionally reflected “Hindu Nationalist” position. It was mainly an orthodox political organisation having its roots from earstwhile Jan Sangh which evolved into the present form via Janta Dal. It Got its first Government in 1999 and lost to Congress led UPA in 2004 and 2009 election.
Having lost two consecutive elections BJP was desperate to regain power and avoid being politically irrelevant . They understood that the key was to target the youths of 18-29 years who constitute 21% of the voters , are digitally savvy , eager for an alternate platform after 10 years of political stagnation and are of those who actually go out there and vote . They wanted to connect to this decisive crowd.
Strategies/Approaches adopted by BJP
Narendra Modi wasn’t new to social media. He started the website narendramodi.in in 2005. In 2009 he joined Twitter and Facebook. Keeping Modi in focus BJP formed a composite and interconnected social media ecosystem comprising of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + and WhatsApp. They started an you tube channel which in no time had millions of subscribers. They also adopted another smart approach..they divided the entire social media campaign into two parts. One part officially associated with BJP which mainly focused on eulogising Narendra Modi and his successful “Gujrat Model” and “NaMo ” of Governance and the another part which targeted Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi. Prima Facie this group wasn’t associated with official BJP but promoted by “neutrals” who systematically torpedoed Rahul Gandhi and Congress credentials by sharing jokes and innuendoes in all Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp and swayed the undecided towards BJP. A mammoth digital team worked round the clock in the back end for Narendra Modi and in no time he was one of the most followed leader in Facebook and twitter second only to Obama.
Indian politicians are notoriously shy on self projection to the masses . Narendra Modi on the other hand did not only use it to build up a cult like persona sharing stuffs like selling teas which endeared him to the larger masses, his digital team stuffed so much positive things about him personally and his style of governance that any search about him in any search engines largely produced positive aspects only effectively masking the weak spots like Godhra incident . Congress initially underestimated the impact and tried to trivialise it and when they ultimately understood they tried to address it with a half baked and unorganised approach which did more harm than good. AAP later tried the same strategy and got grand result in Delhi assembly election.Another out of Box approach was to crowdsource the election manifesto where millions participated through Twitter and blogs.
Results obtained by BJP
The rest as they say is history. BJP bagged 281 seats and an absolute majority- a feat not seen since 1984. Modi became the PM leaving behind major stalwarts like L K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. They were no match to the huge brand Modi had become primarily through digital media. BJP followed it up in the subsequent assembly elections and sort of washed out Congress from most of the states.
The political parties in India understood the hard reality that social media is no longer being used as a place to “hook up” by youths but a lot of serious chatter happens there . A strong trend is generated by the Opinion Makers in the social media space and in some cases they are more powerful and produces greater results than buying ad spots in Television and Print media. Secondly, social media helps to establish a two way communication in a large scale which isn’t possible in case of traditional canvassing. BJP used this media with the highest efficiency to spread information directly to the masses and then further fine tune it on the inputs they got in the same platform.