A game changer for elections 2014?

A game changer for   elections 2014?

A new development in this season of surcharged political campaigning has caught everyone’s attention. Rallies, advertisements, hoardings and even ‘freebies for votes’ are all passé now.

The new age neta is reaching out to his young voter through social networking sites. Each political party has created a ‘cyber cell,’ senior politicians are omnipresent on Facebook and Twitter, and there have also been amusing reports of parties holding ‘social media workshops’ for the uninitiated among them.

So when the Internet and Mobile Association of India came up with a survey recently saying ‘Social media can swing up to four percent of urban votes in the upcoming general elections,’ Metrolife decided to speak to our social media-savvy junta to find out if it is actually as gullible as it’s being made out to be.

Munish Rathore, a student of Jamia Milia Islamia, says, “It’s a very intelligent move. Our politicos know how active college students and young professionals are on social media, how they were mobilised during the recent protests against corruption and the December 16 gangrape, and taken a cue from that. No other medium gives you this kind of reach. Almost everyone has a smartphone these days and accesses FB at least. So if you can catch them there, nothing better than that.”

Bhawana Kapoor Bajpai, a corporate communications executive, adds, “I have noticed that you don’t exactly need to visit the FB page of a Narendra Modi, Shashi Tharoor or Chidambaram to be influenced by them. Their thoughts, reactions, one-liners, jokes against other politicians are constantly being picked up and shared by netizens. There’s no escaping it. I am sure it has an impact on impressionable minds – youngsters who don’t have strong opinions, loyalty towards any particular party and first-time voters.”

Though, not all derive their political leanings from Tweets and Likes. Detractors feel that social media sites are an opinion maker only for those who are too lazy to follow the ‘real news’.

Shubha Kanti Raj, a market analyst, says, “How can one formulate political opinion based on others’ opinions? For that, you have to follow facts, figures and statements. I am a Narendra Modi fan and his good work and no amount of negative commentary on FB can change that.”

Others say that arguments on social media often boil down to ‘free entertainment’ and one doesn’t need to ‘re-mould’ his/her political belief on that basis. Neelam Jagdev, a banker, says, “I follow the posts but just treat them as friendly fights and nothing beyond. My political inclinations have been formulated over years of observation and
can’t be influenced by a post or two.”

Akshita Jain, a young PR professional who has handled social media accounts of some politicians, goes on to say, “As a businessperson I am happy to get high profile clients, but it makes me think that if all those lakhs spent on online canvassing were invested in ‘actual developmental work,’ how many voters would that have influenced?” would that have influenced?”

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