How India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the Internet
The Indian General Elections of 2014 will be remembered for their massive numbers. According to the Election Commission of India, the voting schedule has involved 814.5 million people, making it the largest election ever in history. But looking at what happened online is even more interesting, particularly the integrated digital strategy deployed by candidate Narendra Modi.
On May 16th the results were declared: the National Democratic Alliance led by the the centre-right coalition Bharatiya Janata Party won, beating the United Progressive Alliance led by the Indian National Congress (centre-left coalition). Narendra Modi, leader of the BJP, made his victory public right away, by tweeting “India has won! We’re approaching the good days”, in a combination of English and Hindi.
How Narendra Modi changed the rules
So no public speech first, yet a simple tweet of a few words that the whole world saw in a matter of seconds. The tweet sets a new record in India, with 40k reetwets in 45 minutes and 70k at the moment of writing. This just confirmed what has been said during the whole electoral campaign: he changed the rules.
A bit of background: Narendra Modi was an important figure for Bharatiya Janata Party in the 1995 Gujarat state election campaign, and after six years he became Chief Minister of the State. He is currently serving his fourth consecutive term. During these four mandates and 13 years of service he has been praised for his economic policies, which increased the economic growth of Gujarat, but he has also been drawn as a Hindu nationalist. In June 2013 he was chosen as the chairman of the national campaign committee after L.K.Advani’s resignation in his favour. From that moment, Narendra became the centre of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign.
He accustomed his voters and large part of the Indian population to a new type of communication from the beginning of the electoral campaign. It started in July 2013 with a digital campaign called “Mission 272+”, referring to the number of seats the BJP needed for a majority in Parliament, which eventually became an Android app. BJP supporters could enrol themselves as voters in a BJP database and enlist others via mobile phone.
A social media-first approach
As the basis of the entire campaign Modi used his Facebook and Twitter pages.
15 million people liked his Facebook page until now, and he is only second after the US President Obama in terms of fans following politicians. According to Andy Stone from Facebook policy communication: “Modi continues to have the fastest growing page (for the last day, week and month) of any politician or elected official worldwide”. The growth rate was around 1.171 % against Obama’s 0.305 % (source: Zeenews India).
As the election trend in the Indian pages was growing, Facebook added the “I’m a voter” button which people could click after having vote. This obviously increased more and more the growth of the topic and the interaction with politicians (more details on Lighthouse Insights).
Among all social media, Twitter had a predominant role during the entire campaign period, but not only for the BJP’s leader.
Twitter India stated that there have been 56 million election-related Tweets from January 1st until May 12th. It became the medium of choice for people to consume political content and – even more important – to relate with politicians.
Tapping into new trends: UGC, selfies and 3D technology
At the end of April he tweeted a selfie with an inked finger (that means that he voted) and he invited people to share their ones using the hashtag #SelfieWithModi. Needless to say, a huge number of voters started to tweet their inked-finger selfie. In this way he engaged prominently young people that are used to this practice, but not only. Indeed, several elders did the same in order to motivate others to come and vote. Then, all the shared images went on his web page and became part of the giant mosaic of the leader.
The mosaic is not the sole innovative visual element used to gain votes. As India is not a small and unpopulated country and he needed to reach as much people as he could, he used a new technology that politicians have never used before: 3D holograms.
In this way he’s been capable of holding 100 different rallies around India at the same moment reaching 14 million extra voters. Obviously standing in his studio in the Gandhinagar residence.
Voters could go to this “hologram 3D” rallies to see Narendra appearing on the same and talking to them as if he was actually there.
“The 3D technology has been a huge asset for the Modi campaign. The uniqueness of the shows and Modiji’s speeches are attracting crowds. There is a demand for the 3D vans,” said Chandrashekhar Sharma, who coordinates planning and logistics at BJP’s Delhi office, to The Times of India.
Once his victory was clear and after the famous tweet, the enthusiasm exploded on social media. In order to collect all the good wishes and the supporters’ passion, a “Victory wall” was created. Everyone could share comments by SMS, Tweet or Facebook, and also design their own message. The Victory Wall webpage has been quickly filled with thousands of notes from all over the country and not only, marked with the hashtag #CongratsNaMo.
The great use of digital sources revealed itself as the right strategy for BJP in order to beat the Congress Party led by the Gandhi dynasty. Narendra’s rival Rahul Gandhi doesn’t have an its own Twitter and Facebook account, therefore it was difficult for him to reach the same empathy that BJP’s leader created with his supporters.
These elections – and in particular this campaign – marked a turning point in the global political communication, and can be only compared with the first Obama’s campaign in 2008, when he started using social networks.
But here we can notice an evolution of what happened in the USA: it is the leader himself that communicate with his supporters, creating a direct link between him and people. Narendra used a simple communication that could be understood by everyone and, at the same time, he homologated himself to the new social media “language”.
As reported on this post by Lighhouse Insights, selfies are one of the main trends in today’s India’s digital space. Using selfies to engage people to vote made him as famous and recognisable as all the Hollywood actors that were in the Oscar’s selfie. All over the world.