DailyPost 1950

Elections in India have been a different story every time; in its nuances, methodology, superficial content, the wave or lack of it and the propensity to surprise the establishment, voters and the biggest stakeholder – political leaders themselves. The cocktail of caste, creed, region, religion and all other divisive forces come into fully play in electioneering with the core content remaining the same. The media or the method of electioneering has remained the same with public meetings, rallies, road shows, hoardings, and rath yatras ruling the roost. The landscape changed with the hi-tech vehicles entering the election campaign, the impact remaining unknown. Social media also raised its head and has been catered to, by the political parties at least in the last few elections.

The tone, tenor and content of the campaign across different mediums have generally remained consistent, the manifestation could be a little different, given the medium used. The mass media , different from the political parties campaigning, was mandated to be the information referee of democracy’s biggest thriller – the elections. What extent the mass media has been able to fulfil this responsibility, we can keep debating, till cows come home. But the division of the mass media with visible fault lines has never been seen in the manner it is happening in 1922 Assembly elections. The onset and upward rise of social media remains unquestioned. Another differentiating element is that the current campaigning is forced to be in the digital mode, courtesy third Covid wave and ECI.

With the whole of print media turning out to be another variant of yellow pages, or ad insert of daily newspapers and social media becoming a force to be reckoned with, the election media battle is unravelling in most interesting of the ways. Electronic media still continues to enter the drawing rooms of people’s homes and seems to be going strong. With a smartphone in everyone’s hand and social media apps to boost, their stranglehold over people’s hearts and minds, is way beyond any medium in human history. In the current elections the nature  of reporting of the electronic and the social media is radically different. Well ensconced in the plush studios and funds to boost, TV channels are running arm chair commentaries of what they feel is happening. Their anchors have not been fair at the best of times, so now they have a field day to display their skills to the fullest.

Every day the same guests / experts enlighten the masses by their great talk shows. The same talk shows are sometimes shipped to the state locations. Objectivity, relevance, and anti-establishment streak seem to have been lost completely. The studio has become the new ground zero. The social media is not one single mass. It throws up the kaleidoscope of the ground reality as it exists. It has organized YouTube channels and less organized and solo performers. The capability to reach out to the audience directly with video becoming the main medium, is adding authenticity to their whole effort. Local language singers are making waves and for very right reasons. Some YouTube channels cover in a manner which gives you a clear-cut idea of geography, caste, economic conditions, the issues, sentiments and like. You also get a fair idea as to how the situation is evolving. Social Media thus becomes the overall political barometer.


Sanjay Sahay

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