Home >politics >policy >How BJP, Congress differ in their tweeting patterns

As the campaigning for the ongoing state assembly polls reaches a crescendo, Twitter has increasingly become a battleground for the two largest political parties in India and their respective leaders.

But the manner in which they tweet, the way in which they use the medium, and the responses they receive seem to have striking differences, an analysis of tweets of the country’s two biggest parties (Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress) and their biggest leaders (Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi) shows. The analysis is based on data from Twitter application programming interface (API), which allows extraction of the last 3,200 tweets of any unprotected user.

The analysis shows that roughly a third of the tweets of both Modi and Gandhi featured the poll-bound states in the one-month period to 29 November. The two parties tweeted even more about the five states going to elections in November and December—which together also send 83 members of parliament (MPs) to the lower house of the parliament. As much as 40% of tweets from the official handle of the BJP and 35% from Congress’ official handle featured one of the five states (Question 1 in the accompanying charts).

It is worth noting though that for the two main leaders, the past month yielded only a small sample of tweets. This is especially true for Gandhi, who tweeted only 59 times in the past month. In comparison, Modi, who is a more frequent tweeter, had 507 tweets. Their parties tweeted much more: 1,221 tweets for the BJP and 969 tweets for the Congress in the past month. To get larger samples of the leaders of the two parties, we took a two-month window to study the tweets of Modi and Gandhi for the rest of the analysis.

Both parties and their top leaders seem to be following a messaging pattern that is broadly aligned to the five-stage election schedule. In the period under review, the focus of their messaging has been on the two states that went to polls first: Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Between the two parties, the Congress had a more diversified approach (Question 2).

But when it comes to acknowledging its state leaders, the Congress is quite frugal, possibly a result of the absence of a clear designated state leader in its ranks. The BJP, in comparison, mentioned its state leaders in more than half the tweets for the three states where it has a strong incumbent chief minister, namely Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (Question 3). This difference extends to the respective party leaders as well.

Another difference between the two sides is the medium they use for messaging. Modi and the BJP both use videos more than their rivals. While Modi uses a high proportion of multimedia content to highlight snippets of his public engagements via videos, Gandhi usually announces his public tours and engagements with a picture (Question 4).

How much traction do these tweets get? On average, Gandhi’s tweets on the poll-bound states are being retweeted more than Modi’s. Among their parties, it is BJP that is finding more traction (Question 5).

The interesting thing here is how the traction of these parties change when they mention or attack their rivals in the five states. While the Twitter handles of both parties are attacking each other (Question 6), among leaders, Modi is attacking state rivals more than Gandhi.

Average retweets of the BJP surges 151%, while those of the Congress falls 44% when they attack their opponents. Although Gandhi has attacked rivals less in his state-centric tweets; when he does make such tweets, his retweet count doubles (Question 7).

For Modi, there is a relatively smaller bump when he attacks rivals in these five states. It is likely that these attacks will sharpen—on Twitter and off it—in the coming weeks and months.

(howindialives.com is a database and search engine for public data)

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