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The wall battalions: Facebook in 16th General Election
Certainly, the use of social media in democratic politics and in particular Facebook is path-breaking event in electoral history in India. Without a doubt, Facebook has been important in incorporating apolitical generation in to democratic process.

It provided them a medium where they posted and shared their notions and in deed lamented their aversion to political class. At the same time, it gave them a space that politicised them in to core issues of democracy. However, much deeper issues need to be thoroughly investigated. Beside all the hue and cry over Facebook, scores of stories remain untold.

General Election 2014 will have more from the crowd class: Facebook indeed, among the platforms. Facebook swallow up bigger stake than other social media platforms. Undeniably, the role of Facebook in the 16th General Election is impulsively promising also. However, how they can translate fifth e-state in to polling booth certainly is what more than mere statements of facts and number games in the election run up.

To understand Facebook function in general election 2014, it is pertinent to draw an analogy that is helps sum up the nebulous Facebook election landscape. Apparently, Facebook configures fifth estate electoral process at four parallels and they are political parties, political leadership, online electoral campaign and apolitical e-state voters.

Facebook India scroll up news feed related to political events in the country, i.e., Facebook Indian Political Interest Lists (https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook/facebook-indian-political-interest-lists/712639158756020). This news feed list out a whopping list of links to political parties and political leadership. 

The page has only over five hundred Likes and over hundred shares by mid March 2014. The pages do not have much Likes, followers and commenter?. Navigation on the link will take users towards verified pages of political parties and politicians.

Facebook parties

There are many more in the list on the verified Facebook roll of political parties, see https://www.facebook.com/lists/10151862497682341. Facebook India has hosted a roll of verified official Facebook pages of Indian Political parties. The Facebook roll stream news of so and so verified party pages.

Bharatiya Janata Party, (https://www.facebook.com/BJP4India) 2,829,848 likes the cover page says, ?Let us work together to make Mission 272 + a reality? by mid March 2014. In fact, BJP has larger follower basis in the Facebook. Just by one hour, a post in the page (http://www.bjp.org/media-resources/press-releases/5th-list-of-candidates-for-lok-sabha-election-2014) on 19 May 2014 gets an average of over 4116 shares. On the same day a Wall post got over twenty one thousand Likes on the page.

Indian National Congress, (https://www.facebook.com/IndianNationalCongress) 2,107,693 likes where as the cover page says voice, opportunity, transparency and empowerment. However, the page is growing by user basis by mid March 2014. On 19 May 2014, any post in the page gets over ten thousand Likes in seven hours.

Nationalist Congress party has 220,312 likes by March 2014. Many parties are on the roll list of the Facebook India that provides link to potential online political parties. However, Aam Aadmi Party is active and they maintain state wise and even city wise Facebook pages for the party.

Facebook politicians

In addition, political leadership has their verified Facebook page that Facebook India has hosted by its own. Indian Political Leaders List is a page hosted by Facebook India for general election 2014 and it will have the official verified links to almost all leading politicians in India see, https://www.facebook.com/lists/10151862504152341.

Navigation on to the Indian Political Leaders List direct users to pages of political class, for instance, Facebook page of Nanrendra Modi with over one crore likes, swallow over eighteen thousands Likes, over nine hundred comments, and over seven hundred shares within one hour posted on 20 March 2014 and this an average of every post he makes.

Every Wall post of Narendra Modi moves viral and Likes are spiraling hour after hour. Arvind Kejriwal with over 4.7 million Likes emerge as a major contender of fifth estate constituencies. Arun Jaitley with five and half lakh likes, Milind Deora with fifty seven thousand Likes by March 2014 and almost all politicians across all ages migrating to Facebook signifies the growing desire for bringing change through technology.

Every timeline warriors used to make their ideology, principles, vision, and style statements in the Facebook cover page. The cover page politics even signifies the growing implication of a new loudspeaker that makes a tidal wave in the way we do politics. Milind Deora, for instance, states in the cover page how his motto would lead his politics: Principle, Access and Action.

Facebook campaigning

Facebook has been organising Candidates 2014. Facebook tied up with 'Newslaundry' for a Facebook Talks Live event called Candidates 2014. Analogous to US electoral strategies in online spaces, it is a town-hall format where people engage their leaders through Facebook and a live audience can ask questions to political leaders who could play a role in the formation of the next government. It also took a leading national television channel as leading channel partner.

Facebook users would be able to pose questions directly to key political contenders for 2014 general elections with the launch of a special initiative: Facebook Talks Live.In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, users of Facebook was able to discuss the electoral agenda of country's top politicians including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, among others. 

Eminent journalist Madhu Trehan moderated the session by asking questions on behalf of Facebook users. It is live-streamed on the website besides being broadcast on an identified private television channel.

India Election Tracker (https://www.facebook.com/FacebookIndia) is a Facebook app hosted on the Facebook India page. The app has three major sections: (1) Follow the Facebook Talks Live, (2) Election issues related poll and (3) Leading candidates and parties at a glance. The page has 143,363,057 likes.

The apolitical e-state voters

The most significant aspect of Facebook in 2014 seem discussed on the backdrop of migration of apolitical voters and depoliticised youth in to fifth estate constituencies. On Facebook profiles, the largely apolitical young voters from here and there and in particular from city India began to speak like self-appointed guardian of justice. 

In Facebook, depoliticised generations of young India seem speaking like game changers this election time. Their vociferous and voracious commentaries got rough weathers through fifth e-state constituencies.

Profiles from here and there, even fake, vengeance, and so on makes statements that this time let us make a different game. The game changer is social media and in particular the Facebook. The young voters in fact have been greatly co-opting in to democratic process since Facebook. In that respect, Facebook role in democratic process cannot take for granted.

The game changer

Perhaps General Election 2014 will be an election with rise of Aam Aadmi Party, increasing campaigns against corruption and NOTA debates. Meanwhile the recipe for a non-Congress, non-BJP, the Third Front, a name synonymous with general elections in India comprising eleven Left and secular parties offering themselves as an alternative to the Congress and BJP while side-stepping the contentious leadership issue has entered the forefront. 

With Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi on the race for prime Mastership, Aravind Kejarival with potential for game change in the heat, the sixteenth general election has many peculiarities.

Among this, the increasing popularity of social media constituencies and fifth e-state voters are a new arrival in election strategies. Social media consolidating public opinion during election campaign has seemingly attracted the fascination of all establishments across the political spectre. 

However, a vivid generation divide has become impeccable as the elder generation exhibits higher level of skepticism where as digital natives. i.e., those born after Internet have been internalizing their touch screens and monitors as virtual realities. The trajectory of social media as if a game changer during general election 2014 mirrors the imaginations of everyone as never before in this context.

However, there are deeper issues involved in Facebook stories. With Facebook in General Election 2014, we have moved on to a new sort of identity shift. Political public has been fragmenting towards a kind of balkanization. In deed, Technology takes us towards a super saturation point as it cope up with a society that never experienced a medium of this sort before. 

For this medium, we have almost surrendered our culture to technology. Politicians have migrated to this space by overstepping their pitfalls. Consequently, we have made our culture to fit technology instead making technology fit our culture. These severe issues of technology use in electoral process need deeper scrutiny and thorough analysis. Hope it would.

About the Contributor: Biju P R, teaches Political Science at Government Brennen College, Thalassery, Kerala. Researches on social media and political interfaces in the Indian context.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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