Campaign battle has been fought as much online as it was on the streets by all major fronts
Constantly shifting narratives, controversies, positive campaigns and counter campaigns, music videos and online challenge games – the past few weeks of electioneering for the Assembly polls have been as eventful and noisy in the online world as it was offline. It has been a race to grab the eyeballs and the mindspace of the indecisive voter, the ones who can swing the results in at least some constituencies.
Owning and sustaining the narrative has been a challenge for all fronts in social media, where trends hardly last a day. Right from the beginning, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) has attempted to ensure that continuity in power and developmental and welfare initiatives of the government would remain a buzzword in all discussions. The United Democratic Front (UDF), meanwhile, focussed its attention on the flurry of allegations raised by Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala. They also attempted to harness the popularity of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, promoting his rallies, shop visits, autorickshaw rides and deep-sea diving to garner hits. Both the UDF and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also have attempted to keep ‘faith’ as an issue in the limelight, with constant references to Sabarimala womenn entry issue.
This campaign also witnessed popular professional vocalists lending their voices for the party campaigns. While Sitara Krishnakumar sang ‘Urappanu Keralam’ and Sooraj Santhosh composed ‘Hridayapaksham’ both for the LDF, Vaikom Vijayalakshmi crooned ‘Naadu Nannakanayi’ for the UDF. These numbers went viral on multiple social media platforms.
All the candidates activated their dedicated social media pages, with live broadcasting of vehicle rallies. The re-sharing of content from lesser-known candidates through the official party pages or that of star campaigners gave them more visibility. The candidates who had ensured a keen following on their pages much before the elections, had a clear upper hand over the new entrants to social media.
When the opinion polls from various news channels began coming in, these were perhaps the most shared items on social media, but even most supporters of the LDF, which came on top in most surveys, have been critical of the survey methodologies. In the final week of the campaign, with Chied Minister Pinarayi Vijayan daring the UDF to have a debate on development, the Left supporters too joined in with a development challenge hashtag campaign. The debate heated up as former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy responded with a Facebook post on development and welfare during the UDF tenure, leading to multiple rebuttals from either side.
With Kerala’s penchant for the written word, Twitter, with its word limits, has not become a factor in setting the narrative in the State, unlike at the national level. WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram have remained the most preferred platforms for political messaging. Now, it remains to be seen as to whose messaging has managed to sway the most.