The BJP’s landmark win in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections can in many ways be credited to the party’s efficient use of social media. Speaking to a room full of digital marketing experts, Gupta gave a glimpse of how the party used digital media to aid their campaign process. “We had to evangelize the whole digital and social media within the party. Till today I must confess only a few people within the war room who actually understand what digital media comprises of,” he said.
The BJP went about their digital campaign in a manner that would have made a corporate body proud, he said. “We always believed in digital media which for us means mobile, social and non-social internet. That’s what we used very progressively,” explained Gupta.
When asked how they approached digital media, Gupta explained that a few key people were identified within the party who understood the medium and these people were given the responsibility to take care of it. “I joined the party in 2010 and I had to start educating people about the basics and building the confidence that this could make a difference,” he said. According to him, the December 2012 elections were a test-bed for the party, while the 2013 state elections changed the game.
However, he cautioned that like in any field, if the product is bad no amount of good marketing can help it. “We were lucky that we had a strong product (Narendra Modi). Our job was to ensure that the message reached every corner of the country,” he said. When asked about how much of the total budget was spent on digital media, Gupta said that the overall amount on digital was much lower than a corporate and in the range of 5 per cent. He credited this to the party laying the foundation for digital media marketing much earlier. “Social media allowed us to bring the cost down a lot. We could have a dedicated set of people and a spontaneous system,” he said.
So, with digital and social media becoming an important tool in BJP’s arsenal, the obvious questions is how the party views it in the coming years, especially in the 2019 general elections. To highlight the importance of digital media, Gupta said that for the 2014 elections the party had identified around 160 seats which were highly impacted by this medium. According to him this would increase to around 300 by the next elections. He further added that with the prime minister’s dream of having internet access available to a billion Indians, digital medium would become even more important in political campaigns. However, for many Indians the fear still remains of a repressive and archaic IT act; the results of which are seen in incidents regularly. On being asked the new government’s stand on internet freedom, Gupta categorically denied that there was any repression. He said that the BJP had always been against Section 66A of the IT Act.