NEW DELHI : Traditional ground campaigning still dominates the outcome of Indian elections, despite some campaigns doing well online, according to a Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) report released on Tuesday.

The report titled, Social Media and Political Behaviour, shows that while the narrative of Chowkidar chor hai (Watchman is the thief) of the Congress was a shade more popular on social media compared to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Main Bhi Chowkidar (I too am a watchman) campaign, it did not translate into electoral gains for the former.

The BJP swept the general elections, winning 303 seats in the 542-member Lower House, while the Congress got just 52.

The BJP’s social media advantage over the Congress declined compared to 2014, according to the report. However, its lead among those who do not use social media widened in the 2019 elections.

The survey interviewed users over their usage of social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as those with no exposure to social media. The report was based on the annual surveys under the Lokniti programme of the CSDS since 2014 and covered 19 states.

“Our main attempt was to understand the impact of social media on political behaviour. We have not used data only from 2019. It’s based on a series of survey data from the last five years, which allows us to make claims about long-term trends," said Sanjay Kumar, director, CSDS.

Nationalism and internal security, key concerns among voters, were reflected in the campaigns. The Balakot air strikes caught on with the masses, with 91% of users having high and moderate exposure to social media responding positively, while approximately 70% of the respondents with low or no exposure to social media were impacted, according to the survey.

The main electoral promise of the Congress, the Nyunatam Aay Yojana, or NYAY, which aimed to provide minimum income support, failed to match the BJP’s campaign pitch with social media users, while 51% of the respondents who were not on social media did not know about the scheme.

Social media was dominated by the well educated. “(Besides), Lokniti’s social media usage data suggests that the social media space has always been upper caste dominated and continues to be so. Upper castes are nearly twice as likely to have high or moderate exposure to social media compared with Dalits and tribals," the report said.

(Paras Jain/Mint)

First-time voters dominated social media, while there was a significant drop in the number of users in the 26-35 age group. The survey also found that about two-fifths of voters from big cities did not use social media and about one-fourth did so very rarely.

“These are the three key takeaways: The BJP-led alliance did enjoy an advantage among social media users. The survey also finds the BJP to have done quite well among those who were not on social media. BJP’s social media advantage did not exist across the board. The correlation was strong among the college educated but not among those who have studied up till Class X," said White Rivers Media co-founder and CEO, Shrenik Gandhi.

Ajai Sreevatsan and Saumya Tewari contributed to this story.

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