General Elections 2019: Decoding poll campaign trends and political narratives

Experts speak about the rise of social media in poll campaigns, the challenges the Election Commission will face in implementing the code of conduct and the sense of distrust

Lok Sabha

With the Election Commission (EC) announcing the schedule for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, political parties across the board have got busy strategising poll campaigns and reworking their narratives to appeal voters.
 

Major political parties like the BJP and Congress have sounded their battle cries. While BJP is going all guns blazing with their latest campaign — ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’, the Congress has kick-started the 2019 election campaign from the PM’s home turf Gujarat and Rajasthan.

See blow some of the recent tweets on the handles of PM Modi, Amit Shah and Rahul Gandhi:
 

 

 

 

A number of regional parties have also begun their poll campaigns and the premise ranges from fighting corruption to job reservations and better governance. While the poll campaign gains steam, we spoke to some experts to understand the trends shaping the ongoing poll campaigns and the political narratives behind them.
 

According to Jawahar Goel, Editor-in-Chief, Zee Media Network and MD Dish TV DTH, “If we look at how political parties are looking at traditional media platforms, this year too we will see the trend of traditional media spends going down and this is primarily because of the rise of social media platforms. As far as poll campaign trends are concerned, it will depend on the narrative that is being pushed by political parties. Normally, the trend is that people vote to penalise governments and very few vote for the good work that has been done. So we have to wait and watch to see how the trends will shape up eventually as we get into full campaign mode.”
 

Harjot Singh Narang, President Dentsu One, sees this political atmosphere like any other marketing campaign where parties are after their own differentiators. He spoke about the growing distrust in social media and its impact on the upcoming election campaigns.
 

“The distrust in social media and what it puts out is one thing that will play in this election. At the same time, it will empower because if you spend enough on it, it has the possibility and capability to generate recall value,” Narang said.
 

Priya Sehgal, Senior Executive Editor, News X said while the BJP has got its tag line ready ‘Namumkin ab Mumkin  Hai’, showing Modi as the one man who can do the impossible and solve all of India’s problems, the Congress still has to get its act together. 
 

“BJP is continuing its 2014 theme, essentially showing Modi as the man with the magic wand. In 2014,  the Congress tried to highlight the megalomania of this campaign by using ‘Main Nahin Hum’ as their tag line to show a leader who believes in team work. This time round it will have to come up with a line showing stronger and decisive leadership because in this narrative of nationalism that is being played out on poll eve, it’s the need of the hour,” said Sehgal.
 

She also spoke about the Election Commission (EC)’s challenges to implement the Model Code of Conduct. “In the age of social media, it is difficult to enforce this rule, though the EC has made it a point to mention social media this time round. But while they may be able to enforce some rules on Twitter and Facebook, how will they handle WhatsApp?
 

Speaking about the ongoing political narratives, Senior Political Analyst Sameer Kaul said,“The BJP has raised the political stakes in all respects. They will derive an advantage from a splintered opposition and absence of a primary contender for the Prime Minister’s chair.”
 

“All said and done, this poll campaign is going to be about accusations and counter-accusations, claims and counter-claims. My personal take being that din and rhetoric leading up to poll dates would surely confuse the voters than clearing the dust. And that’s what would make the results most awaited. I do feel the ruling benches may just have that upper hand that is needed to scamper the finishing line,” said Dr Sharad Kohli, Founder and Chairman KCC Group, Economist, Business, Finance and Tax Commentator.
 

According to communications expert Roma Balwani, the coming of 1.5 crore new voters will impact the upcoming poll campaigns to a large extent.  “We have a whole new breed of under-20 who will be part of the electorate for the first time. The new breed of voters are looking for more ‘call to action’ and they have to be convinced,” stated Balwani.
 

For Dr Kirti Sharma, Assistant Professor Marketing, MDI Gurgaon, purely from a political advertising standpoint the ‘product’ and the ‘brief’ is the most important component of a successful campaign. BJP has clearly defined the face of the party (product) and they have given a structured brief too. 
 

“With the recent Pulwama attack and the counter attack by India, the wave of patriotism will help to shape the BJP campaign in their favour. Further, the various government-led schemes will definitely be an integral element in the campaign. It seems the BJP will have an upper hand in the upcoming elections in terms of designing and running a successful campaign,” she added.

Gopa Kumar, Executive Vice President, Isobar India said, “In this year’s election campaign, Digital would be one of the main platforms where all major political parties will be active. Social media will continue to be the main stay. While guidelines have been put in place, it will be interesting to see how many will adhere to the same. Use of video, WhatsApp and messaging platforms will see a rise as ‘use of voice’ is becoming mainstream and people are getting comfortable with the same. I see many of these parties trying to use voice in different ways to reach out to the voters.”

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