CHENNAI: Be it Murasoli vs Namadhu MGR, or Kalaignar TV vs Jaya TV, people of Tamil Nadu always knew what the channels and the papers stood for and how they turned into well-oiled campaign machineries for the two Dravidian giants during the time of elections.
Gone are the days when party-run TV channels and mouth-pieces were the only mediums of digital electoral campaigning.
Mini videos, memes, and posters have now taken over the stage as ‘means’ that flourish in a clickbait era.
With the 2021 Assembly elections around the corner, it is no more the scene of long-written statements released on media but engaging and thought-provoking satires that easily slide directly into people’s palms through their smartphones. Joining the global trend, Indian politicians have been utilising social media to strike a personal chord with their supporters.
Social media, which played a prominent role during the 2014 and 2019 Indian general elections and in 2011 Arab Spring, is also playing an irrefutably important role in shaping the political landscape of Tamil Nadu.
When an election starts rearing its head, we can see our senior political leaders get into different avatars.
Sometimes, they stand amid a bunch of farmers working on a field, sporting a turban or scooping wet soil with bare hands, while also posing for the drone camera that is flying overhead.
Many people, who braved the virus and went to the theatres to watch their favourite movies recently in TN would have seen the AIADMK government’s ‘Vetri Nadai Podum Thamizhagame’, its anthem for the upcoming election.
How it did it get to catch our pulse? Two reasons: it’s catchy and it’s everywhere!
Another popular trend on social media is ‘smear campaigning’.
While highlighting their good work is for the good samaritans, an easy way many political parties have opted is holding smear campaigns against their opponents. Almost all of them, including the major parties are guilty of this.
The IT (Information Technology) wings of the big parties in the State have released video content and meme intended to ‘troll’ their opponents.
While social media is an effective tool to disseminate information in quick time, the growing issue of fake news and lobbyism are also a concern. Planting a bias among the public through hate campaigns has become very easy lately.
“There is no regulation on the presence of fake accounts and messages reaching the public. It cannot be counted as cyber crime, unless otherwise it involves....say...impersonation or morphing,” said Naavi Vijayashankar, a cyber law expert.
He added its likely that smear campaigns will be considered for defamation suits but not under cyber crime unless it involves the abovesaid two or violating other sections of the IT Act.
Aspire K Swaminathan, the secretary of the AIADMK IT wing and the joint coordinator of media relations said the party’s IT wing has 1,00,000 office bearers across the State and 80,000 WhatsApp groups.
The campaign is pushed through mass media randomly, but sent in a targeted fashion, he said.
“Information on jobs and employment are sent to those in the age group of 18 to 30. What content has to go to the housewives will be sent over to them and similarly with pensioners,” he claimed.
He added that former CM J Jayalalithaa envisioned that the future of elections will be based on technology, he said, adding that AIADMK was the first Indian party to have an exclusive IT wing.
“Earlier, parties would do street plays and skits in every constituency. Campaigning in public places has now entered into personal spaces; into people’s hands”, said professor Ramu Manivannan, head of politics and public welfare, Madras University.