Hero Image

Lok Sabha elections 2024: How social media emerged as key battlefield for BJP vs Congress

NEW DELHI: India just concluded its seven-phased Lok Sabha elections 2024 which reached its end with Narendra Modi taking oath as the Prime Minister for the historic third term along with 71 ministers. During the hard-fought, fierce election campaigns as both the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP ) led NDA and the opposition INDIA bloc continued their attacks and counter-attacks in order to garner voters, social media emerged as a key battlefield and a mega stage for the parties to reach millions with just a click.

The political parties used the social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and X to livestream roadshows, rallies and media conferences in real-time. This also enabled the parties to reach the masses directly, without relying solely on traditional TV news channels.

The world of memes and hashtags

Once a hub for entertainment, the social media platforms in recent times have quickly transformed into a platform for news, information, campaigns and more. Taking from global trends, the political parties in India are also using X (formerly known as Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, WhatsApp, and other social media channels vie for attention and support from voters.

As the number of smartphones rises, available with easily-accessible and cheap internet, the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections saw the army of social media teams of parties use their creativity to start trending hashtags, participate in meme fest and to also convey the message to voters.

Major political parties such as Congress and BJP, throughout the 44-day elections, used platforms to mock each other counter claims through the eye-catching memes.

Picture credit: BJP@X (left), Congress@X (right)

Just to reach a wider audience, the parties have also created accounts on the same platform for different states and languages, making it possible to hit the target voters at the micro level. With focus on content creation, these accounts have tapped into the trends using fast-paced trending music, snappy video edits and to-the-point crisp messages to garner support.

In the run up to the elections, Congress extensively used Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra and Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra to change his image from a ‘shehzada’ (a price, as BJP terms him) to a grassroots leader who has travelled the country’s length and breath to understand common people’s problems.

On the other hand, the BJP which ran the Lok Sabha election campaign around PM Modi, tried to portray him as a ‘karmath’ (hardworking) leader by mentioning his daily number of rallies and roadshows throughout the day. Both the parties also often used social media to project an image of strength and superiority over the other.

The social reach: BJP vs Congress

BJP

The BJP emerged as a frontrunner in terms of social media presence and effective campaigning. The party made its debut on X, formerly known as Twitter, in October 2010 and has amassed an impressive following of 22 million subscribers. The BJP's X account prominently features Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president JP Nadda as its key figures and defines itself as “world’s largest political party, representing aspirations of 1.4bn Indians.”

The party's bio on the platform includes the hashtag ‘#viksitbharat by 2047’, which has been a central theme of BJP's Lok Sabha campaign this year.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha, when Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Chowkidar chor hai’ had become the Opposition’s biggest poll campaign slogan against PM Modi over the alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal, the BJP used ‘Main bhi chowkidaar’ campaign for PM Modi and senior party leaders to counter the jibe.

Building upon the same, in the 2024 general elections when RJD chief Lalu Prasad said in a rally that Modi has no family, PM Modi responded by saying that the whole nation is his family. The BJP leaders were quick enough to add the prefix ‘Modi ka parivar’ in their social media accounts which quickly gained widespread popularity and support.

The BJP's innovative use of catchy slogans and their ability to engage with the public through social media platforms have proven to be highly effective in garnering support and solidifying their presence in the digital realm.



Congress

The Congress made its debut on the social media platform X in February 2013, and the party currently boasts 10.6 million followers. The party's X profile prominently showcases its leader Rahul Gandhi alongside party president Mallikarjun Kharge, while also highlighting various issues raised by the party, such as "Yuva Nyay, Nari Nyay, Kisaan Nyay, Shramik Nyay and Hissedari Nyay." These issues were central to Rahul's renowned Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, which has been regarded as crucial in reviving the party this election.

On its X profile, the party describes itself as "India's Most Vibrant Political Movement" and promotes hashtags such as #Bhartibharosa, #Pehlinaukaripakki, and #KissanMSPGuaranteee. These hashtags serve to communicate the Congress party's manifesto and promises for the Lok Sabha election 2024, emphasising their commitment to address the concerns of the youth, women, farmers, and workers, while also ensuring their participation in the country's progress.

The party also extensively promoted Rahul’s two yatras where he was seen walking with people from various walks of life across the country, resulting in a significant boost in the party's popularity.

The party accounts tried to push the emotional side of the Congress leader by sharing the posts about when he worked as a coolie for a few hours, labored in the paddy fields alongside farmers in Haryana, drove trucks, tractors and interacted with mechanics. This grassroots approach allowed him to connect with the masses on a personal level.

The campaign focused on people’s aspirations translated into increased support for the party in Lok Sabha polls 2024.

Followers and Subscribers: PM Modi vs Rahul Gandhi

The Lok Sabha elections have been significantly influenced by political rallies, particularly those led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Gandhi, who has 25.9 million subscribers on X, and PM Modi, with an impressive 98.5 million followers on the same platform, have used their vast social media presence to connect with the masses.



In addition to PM Modi’s over 200 rallies and public outreach programmes, and Rahul Gandhi’s around 180 during the campaign, both leaders leveraged their millions of followers across various social media channels to live stream the public events and give the jist to the audience. This strategic use of digital platforms allowed them to reach a wider audience and engage with potential voters in real-time.

READ ON APP