Social media has opened a new dimension in India's complex political reality. Three years after India effectively saw its first social media-driven general elections, where political parties, especially the Narendra Modi-led BJP, took to Facebook and Twitter to reach out to voters, social media has become a major part of the electoral process.
Cashing in on the latest trend, the Chief Electoral Officer of Goa (CEO) has taken to social networking site Facebook to spread voter awareness and address other public grievances.
The Facebook campaign began in September 2016, Chief Electoral Officer Kunal told Firstpost, adding that the decision was made keeping in mind its popularity among Goans.
"Goa has a high literacy rate and people here are well connected through social media," added the officer.
However, when asked why Twitter has not been utilised, Kunal claimed that not many Goans are active on the micro-blogging site.
The page, Chief Electoral Officer, Goa, currently has about 30,000 followers (all figures are as of 30, January 2017). Interestingly, over 20,000 followers were added in less than a month's time.
The extent of work done by the CEO Office can be gauged by the rating it has got on the page so far. Out of the 70 odd reviews, a majority of them give the page a full five-star rating.
Some users also took some time out to write positive words of appreciation for the Goa CEO.
The officer shared some key figures with Firstpost: The Facebook page reached an audience of more than 5.5 lakh between 23 and 29 January, while on an average one-lakh users engaged with the page every week in January.
Kunal said that he first realised the effectiveness of Facebook after the success of the EPIC selfie contest, which was conceptualised by an intern. In this contest held in October last year, people had to post a selfie with their Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) and lucky entries stood a chance of winning various electronic gadgets.
Kunal noted that the contest, which aimed at boosting voter enrollment among youth, garnered a large audience. "Our audience had reached one lakh," he said. Now the contest is in its second season.
This number is significant in the context of Goa, as it has a total population of just 15 lakh, while the total voter strength is about 11 lakh. This makes the tiny coastal state's electorate one of the smallest in India.
Kunal believes that Facebook is a unique platform for the authorities to put out information in a creative and easy-to-understand manner. "Or else messages can be put out in a bland manner too," added the officer.
Scrolling through the Facebook page, one gets to view the different ways in which the electoral office has tried to spread its message among young Goans.
In a special series, 'Goa on Elections', young anchors go to different college campuses across the state to quiz students — many of them potential first-time voters — on voting rights, elections and the Indian political system.
These videos are fun to watch, easy to comprehend and enjoyable. Perfect infotainment for the young voters.
Here's a glimpse of it.
CEO Goa has also unlocked other ways of utilising short videos for voter awareness campaigns. Stating ethical voting and maximum participation of eligible voters as the two main objectives of the voter awareness campaign, the electoral body added that it has utilised the vibrant Goan culture to spread its message among the electorate.
A series of short clips by Kala Academy, Goa's premier art and theater institute, urge voters to exercise their right wisely.
This particular Konkani-language video made by Tiatr Academy has got the highest traction on their page till now. Tiatr is a popular form of Goan musical theatre mainly performed in Konkani.
Then there are videos which promote ethical voting. Through these videos, the election body condemns voter bribery and urge women voters to elect their candidate without being influenced by the male members of their family.
The electoral body has also roped in several Goan personalities to encourage voters to come out and vote on 4 February. Prominent among them are fashion designer Wendell Rodricks, singer Hema Sardesai — who interestingly has also sung the election song, playwright Vijaykumar Naik, among several others.
The creative infographics do their job effectively.
On voter bribery
A simple message to vote wisely put very creatively!
Go Goa, vote
Like no one? Then press Nota
Encouraging 100 percent voter turn out: The Goa CEO way
Taking a cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's digital India push, the Election Commission has launched three apps for the public: Sugam, Suvidha and Samadhan.
The Goa CEO used Facebook to spread awareness about these apps. While Samadhan app is for public redressal, Suvidha is for tracking and approval of all campaign-related applications.
Sugam on the other hand helps take care of arrangement of vehicles for poll duty.
Here is an explainer video for the Samadhan app.
The recurring feature of the page is the constant updates it shares encouraging people to contact the CEO Office for any redressal.
The CEO has also targeted political parties. The election body, through Facebook, is ensuring that the model code of conduct is duly followed by all candidates in Goa.
Kunal cited the example of how Facebook helped his team to fight the "matka" menace, after the dates of the election were announced on 4 January. " Users helped us hit "matka" hard after the model code of conduct kicked in. Through photos shared by the public, we could locate these dens and close them," the officer said.
The Chief Electoral Officer said he is happy with the feedback. When asked whether the social networking site has had any direct role in increasing the voter registration, Kunal felt that while it would be difficult to give a definite data linking Facebook with higher registrations, it definitely helped them create a buzz around the polls among youngsters.
"Even if we consider that one member in a family of five has liked our page, it means at least 2.5 percent of the population is directly connected with us through our Facebook page. In total, we reach to about 10 percent of the Goan population," said Kunal.
With such a robust social media campaign, the Goa CEO expects a jump of at least five percent in the voter turnout. In 2012, the voter turnout was around 83 percent. However, Kunal felt it would be a "herculean" task to achieve.
Goa might seem to be insignificant in terms of its size — the Vidhan Sabha has just 40 seats. But the state CEO's social media activism can set an example for other Indian states.
Updated Date: Feb 03, 2017 17:54 PM