The Indian Economy Blog

April 22, 2009

Online Campaigning & The Indian Elections

Filed under: Politics — Prashant @ 6:45 am

The Internet may have worked wonders for Obama in the US, but is unlikely to be even half as effective in India

In a nation where a quarter of eligible voters are now between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, the 2009 elections will see a potential 100 million young Indians heading to the polls for the first time between 16 April and 13 May. This isn’t any old India, as PepsiCo’s recent series of TV commercials suggests, this is “Youngistaan,” the Land of the Young. And just as the demographic reality of India’s youth bulge hasn’t passed soft drinks corporations by, neither has it escaped the attention of India’s political hopefuls. In the run-up to the elections, national and regional parties alike have been anxiously reworking their campaign strategies to appeal to youth – or what the media now chummily refers to as Young India.

At the heart of this drive is Obama-inspired online campaigning. Stirred by the Democrats’ success in the United States, India’s major parties have been eagerly integrating the internet into their election drives.

However, they have two big pan-India challenges to overcome: the myriad languages of India and the limited reach of the Internet. Read more here

5 Comments »

  1. The limited reach of the internet in India might be a significant constraint for online campaigning, but it might have a significant impact in a lot of urban constituencies.

    Most of the young voters would be first time voters; possibly without committed ideological loyalties to any particular party. Therefore, the returns to an online campaign might be higher. Also, in constituencies where the margin of victory was low, the young first time voter could be the marginal voter (if most of the repeat voters have loyalties and there is no clear cut anti incumbency wave, the winners could be decided by the way these voters cast their vote).

    The cost of an online campaign is lower than that of a physical, door to door campaign. Also, it is mostly a fixed cost with incremental updates to websites or generation of messages done by free volunteers. This could increase its attractiveness.

    There is also a Prisoners Dilemma at work here. If no other party uses the internet, I am better of using it; If every other party uses it, I need to use it to avoid losing out. End result – Everyone would use it and possibly no one will benefit unless somebody’s campaign is clearly better.

    Comment by Abhishek Gupte — April 22, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

  2. I dont understand how the myriad languages of India are a factor. Most constituencies have but one regional language, and as recent political pattern shows, we are moving towards more rather than less regional parties. Really, if you are a constituent from Nagpur or Rajkot or Barmer, how does the pan-India myriad of languages pose a problem for you putting up your website in your constituents’ language?

    Comment by etlamatey — April 22, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

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  4. In 21st century if anyone wants to attract attention of the young minds then Internet is the medium. As Abhishek mentioned that most of India’s metro cities has a good internet reach and is increasing every single day.
    About the language barrier. It is very easy to overcome by providing a link on the website to read the same website in local language. But i personally think that if a person is already on the internet he is assumed that he knows English, even if not fluent but yes.

    Comment by Birju Ransariya — May 21, 2009 @ 8:56 am

  5. Most of the young voters would be first time voters; possibly without committed ideological loyalties to any particular party. Therefore, the returns to an online campaign might be higher. The cost of an online campaign is lower than that of a physical, door to door campaign.

    Comment by William Brown — August 17, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

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