CHENNAI: As the poll fever goes up ahead of the 2021 elections in Tamil Nadu, the political parties aim for mileage in the digital space.
The digital campaigns are likely to play a vital role as this would be the first State election without the two mass leaders -- J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi - who had great patronage among the mass through their grassroots popularity, as well as through cinema presence and oratorship.
Unleashing creativity, the IT team of DMK, spearheaded by Indian Political Action Committee (I-Pac), which is handling the party's election campaign, was among the first to venture into mini animated short-films highlighting the issues faced by the people.
One of the animated videos under the banner '#WeRejectAIADMK', released months ago in the social media handles of DMK, depicted the death by suicide of NEET candidate Anitha and how many other students died by suicide due to the pressure caused by the Nation-level examination.
The video had highlighted how the exam hindered the possibilities of students from rural areas becoming a doctor.
Responding to that, the AIADMK's IT Wing released a mini-short film, under its banner, ' Vetrinadai Podum Tamizhagam', which highlighted its achievements.
In a video, a young village girl runs to her father who is a farmer, after she gets admission to a medical college, through the 7.5 per cent reservation for government school students, which was recently launched by the government.
The national parties in TN -- the BJP and Congress -- which play second fiddle to the DMK and the AIADMK, also made attempts to spread its wings in the digital platforms.
BJP's Vel Yatra Promotion video, which featured the former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, received much attention from the netizens, while a video of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Coimbatore, under the banner 'Oru Kai Parpom', which had a Tamil background song, also did the rounds on social media.
From releasing advertisements to strengthening social media profiles of leaders, and making videos & short films for party promotion and attacking the opposition, the TN political parties have deployed various means to appeal to the netizens who may play a vital role in this
With all said, will these influence the polls in Tamil Nadu? Political observers, IT wing heads and experts say it is too early for digital campaigns to have full-fledged impact, compared to the grass-root campaigns.
"As of now, apart from the age, gender and location, we know very little about the audience, through the digital campaigns. It is important for us to dominate the social media, trending aspects and such, but at the end of the day, I think politics is all about grassroots," says DMK IT Wing Head P Thiaga Rajan.
He said that the impact of digital communication is definitely higher in Tamil Nadu, due to the higher education level of people here. "Our focus on digital media has so far been on issues faced by people in their daily lives," he added.
Some of the political observers said that, apart from the mainstream parties, the digital campaigns are helping the non-traditional parties like the Naam Tamilar Katchi, founded by actor-turned-politician Seeman.
"Due to NTK's linguistic majoritarian ideology, the party is ignored by the print and digital media. So, the NTK depends on the online space such as YouTube and WhatsApp to convey their message," says political observer Raveenthran Duraisamy.
Duraisamy said that the pandemic too has increased the online penetration which may have some impact on the voters for the upcoming elections.
Political analyst V Maalan says that the age group of 18 to 30 alone has about one crore voters.
"The youngsters, mostly, are not keen on reading newspapers or watching television. They resort to social media which provides a shorter version of what's happening around. These campaigns may reach them," he said.
Maalan said that the work from home culture and pandemic has developed a mindset that people don't mingle with friends and families. "This way, they don't discuss politics often. That leaves them to form an idea of their own. The extent of influence of digital media on voters is yet to be seen," he added.
He said that the digital campaigns may have some impact but not much of an impact to make things topsy-turvy.