11 Mar 2016 20:35 IST

Mind it! Better vote on polling day

Leaders, parties and the Election Commission – in Tamil Nadu everyone is on the Net wooing the voters

The Election Commission recently announced the dates for the Assembly elections in five States, including West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

West Bengal, the first off the block, will start polling on April 4. But if you are living in in Tamil Nadu you will be forgiven for believing that voting in the State is just round the corner; even though the polling is only on May 16. Such has been the frenzy over political marriages, divorces and affairs in the Southern State. But all this drama is taking place more on social media than on the ground.

Late last month, the DMK put out full-page ads in leading papers asking Ennamma Ipadipanreengalemma (why are you doing this Amma?).

Based on a hit Tamil movie song, the question ridiculed Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s ‘absence’ from the public sphere. At the bottom of the page it said, Mudiyattum Vidiyattum (Let it be over, let it be dawn).

Not to be left behind, the AIADMK got back with a poster on Twitter and WhatsApp, saying Mudiyattum DMK! Vidiyattum Tamizhagathukku! (Let DMK be finished. It’s a dawn for Tamil Nadu). It further questioned why the DMK leader, M Karunanidhi has been absent from the Assembly.

Interestingly, a Facebook page called Ennamma Ipadipanreengalemma has nearly half-a-million likes, evoking thousands of ‘reactions’ to each of its memes. It has done better than AIADMK’s official Facebook page, which has a little over 2 lakh likes. On the other hand, an official DMK page on the social media site could not be found. But its leader, MK Stalin’s page has 1.6 million likes. There are scores of pages named after the Chief Minister, but none is a verified one.

Apart from an on-ground cadre, both the parties have built a social media army. Not to be left behind, Vaiko’s MDMK has created a 100-member social media team. Last month, an unnamed expert from Chennai conducted a workshop for the team in their leader’s village in Tirunelveli.

Star struck

Compared to the high-decibel data-consuming campaign in Tamil Nadu, leaders in other States fare poorly on the social media barometer. Perhaps, the politicians in the State have recognised the importance of using social media to woo youngsters (kindly termed here for those below age 30) who make up for 26 per cent of the population.

The State’s Election Commission has also targeted this demographic by making a smart social-media move. It has roped in an ad agency to come out with campaigns starring actors and sports stars in a bid to boost turnout on D-day. For instance, I like the one where Dinesh Karthik and Dipika Pallikal ask people to turn up on polling day.



Another popular one is the campaign featuring cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin. Forget about Dhoni and Virat, says Ashwin, voting is more important. The Election Commission has set a target of a 100 per cent turnout and has planned a three-phase campaign to register voters, and encourage them to turn up on polling day.

The innovative app-roach

Apart from the Tamil Nadu Election Commission, its counterpart in West Bengal is the only one which has thought about using technology to attract voters. The Commission in the Eastern State has launched an app called Samadhan, a common platform for voters to register complaints regarding their voting cards or mistakes in the voters list. The complainant receives a message through an SMS, which carries a complaint ID. After the issue is resolved, another SMS notification is sent.

The West Bengal Election Commission has launched two more apps – Suvidha and Sugam. Suvidha is a single-window to approve campaign-related activities such as holding a meeting. Sugam will help resolve payment issues between operators and campaigners who rent vehicles for campaigning.

If the apps are well used, they will provide the Commission important intelligence on parties’ activities and expenditure. Both have been problem areas for the Election Commission looking to bring in transparency during elections.

While these are innovative steps, the hype, excitement and innovations in the Tamil Nadu political landscape are akin to a Kollywood pot-boiler. As the polling date nears, the social media fight will be as nail biting as the one fought on the streets.