As the nation prepares to go to the polls, MTV hosted a couple of interactive sessions for students and first time voters. The panel discussions were carried out under the “Rock The Vote” umbrella, a pan India initiative that has been going on for the last few months.
Conceptualized as a session comprising of two separate panel discussions, where students could discuss their concerns regarding voting and politics with experienced stalwarts, the first discussion group comprised of Aditya Swamy, EVP & Business Head, MTV India, Bobby Pawar, Director & Chief Creative Officer, Publicis South Asia, best-selling author Ira Trivedi, restaurateur and entrepreneur Anoop Gandhi and Rishi Jaitly, India Market Director, Twitter. The session was moderated by MTV’s VJ José Covaco, more popularly known as HoeZaay. Interestingly, all the panelists were associated with youth-oriented brands or had worked on youth-related projects in the past, which enabled them to communicate more effectively with the young audience.
The session started off with HoeZaay asking Swamy to explain the Rock for Vote initiative and how it was different from similar concepts. Swamy explained that the concept was to engage with young in a language that they would understand. He further highlighted that MTV has partnered with Twitter to aid in the efforts and would also be launching an anthem in the coming days.
When asked whether companies that carry out such initiatives actually care, Bobby Pawar opined, “If you are putting in so much money then you better care. Brands do it with an intention of having an effect on people. I cannot sell you the idea of voting. I can make you aware of it. It is not unlike religion, if you believe in it strongly, then you need to go out and talk to a few people and spread the message.”
Meanwhile, Gandhi opined that the youth of today are not risk takers. Explaining it further, he said, “I see a lot young people wanting an autocratic ruler. They want someone to do things for them but if they want this then they have to go out and vote for a person who will do these things. Instead of pointing fingers and complaining, just do things for change around you.” Bobby Pawar pointed out the various memes and mentions on social media platforms as an indicator that interest is high among youth when it comes to politics and voting. However, he also noted that just putting up content on Facebook and Twitter is not going to change things.
Rishi Jaitly gave insights on how people are using Twitter and other social platforms to talk about politics. He stated that Twitter has seen a 600 per cent increase in conversations around politics and elections on Twitter in the last one year. “If we look at the protests in Delhi a couple of years ago, the traffic surged during that period. I remember there was a girl who was being taken to jail and who tweeted about it. It was retweeted thousands of times. I know it is very easy to be cynical but there are leaders who are listening. If you look at the way leaders are responding to individual tweets there is reason to be optimistic. You are seeing more and more leaders getting personal through platforms like Twitter,”he said.
Adding to this point, Swamysaid that everything has to start with conversations. He mentioned talking about politics as one of the “cool” things this year.He also pointed out the shift in conversations to the younger generation as opposed to parents and the ‘older’ generation, due to changes in technology and the way we communicate. According to him, this is an indication of how the youth has become more powerful as an influencer. “Historically, the young have always been at the centre for creating change in most democracies. It probably did not happen in India because of social reasons but that is changing now,” he said.
Pawar agreed that the shift happened some time back, and urged the audience to realize that they have the power now to express themselves but they needed to build on their opinions. “Turn your opinions into an act that can take this country in the right direction. Your one voice can probably sway a few more around you and those few can then sway more people around them,” he said. HoeZaay then asked Gandhi whether the perception that young people do not care is true. Admitting that there are a lot of young people that genuinely care about things, he said, “There is a certain kind of fear among the youth that their efforts will not result in any change. They need to realize that their efforts might not bear fruits in the next ten years but they will have an effect on the coming generations but those efforts need to be made now. The sooner this fear goes away, the better. They need to understand that the country is ours and not theirs and just for this they need to go out and vote.”
HoeZaay also opined that everyone wants the youth to change things but at the same time even the youth is under a lot of pressure, with a number of different expectations. Going back to how social media has changed the political game, he asked Jaitly about how platforms like Twitter can be used for both constructive debates as well as a means to rant. Jaitly admitted that this has always been a case with the internet in general. In his words, “there will always be positive and negative elements” on anything on the internet. As an industry, it was important to highlight the more positive things.
Trivedistated that this election has become very personality-driven. When asked whether it was a good thing, she said, “When I cast my vote, I do not do this for Modi, Rahul Gandhi or Kejariwal; I do it for my ideals.” She further added that it is not necessarily a bad thing. Adding to this point, Swamy, said that we will all connect with people, especially since this time the three big leaders have such distinctive personalities.