As Karnataka goes to the polls today, it seems that the social media played a significant role in enrolling voters and creating awareness

As Karnataka and India vote for a new parliament, the election is being touted as the one that will challenge a host of conventions. This election campaign has seen many a host of candidates, especially in urban India using the internet. to campaign for votes. No longer is a n election campaign just a motley bunch canvassing for a candidate with flyers and posters. It now encompasses Facebook campaigns, Twitter events and Google hangouts. The social media is credited partially with the success of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi elections last November. Google hangouts, twitter and Facebook chats have become the part and parcel of election campaigns in urban areas. Unlike the last round of general elections in 2009, many politicians are using technology to aid their campaigns. A host of Political leaders from Narendra Modi to Arvind Kejriwal and Nandan Nilekani have been the frontrunners in the use of social media. in the campaign. One would wonder whether Does a social media campaign ensure more votes for a specific candidate? Will it impact governance at the Lok sabha level? Is it a good indicator of the voter mood?

Tinu Cherian, a digital PR professional says, “Independent studies have said that almost 160 lok sabha seats are going to be impacted by the social media. This can come true, especially considering the winning margin in many of the constituencies are not very high. With an influx of new voters, who are, thanks to social media more aware of key political issues, social media might be a major game changer. Young people consider it cool to vote. Much of the election excitement among young voters is driven by the social media.”

Shaili Chopra, an journalist who has written penned a book on the social media, The Big Connect, agrees with Tinu. “It is a necessary condition for these elections. It will impact movements within people and communities that would force others to go vote. It will be hard to quantify levels of impact simply because it has megaphone properties. That means one person on social media can influence 10 others who are not.”

She adds, “Social media campaigns are changing the landscape this election. People are seeking change and that desire is central to the notion of people going from armchair opinion makers to actual voters. As seen on the day of polling in Delhi, people flooded twitter and Facebook timelines with the fact that they voted. Many of these are the kinds who would otherwise use a voting day holiday to take a break.”

Policy expert Nitin Pai believes that social media gives candidates a good indication of the urban mood, though he is not very sure about the electoral impact. “Though internet penetration is increasing in urban areas, there are many people who are not online in urban areas as well. The social media mood may be just the tip of the iceberg.

“The internet has enlarged the scope and participation in public debate. This has intensified with blogs, social media and crowd-sourcing platforms.

“Some of the politicians who have embraced it have done so with a lot more openness and effectiveness, as they need a direct sense of the public pulse. The same cannot be said of government departments and civil servants, many of who still seem to be wary of the internet.”

Tinu contends that even political parties have realised that the youth are a crucial link in the nation building process.

“Tech savvy candidates are trying to reach these urban voters through social media and online advertisements.”

On the manner in which the web has changed campaigning styles, Shaili says, “It has created many changes this time. Crowdsourcing manifestos, seeking feedback via social media and doing Google hangouts among people are signs of the way forward.”

Prasanth K.N. is a PU student in the city and is an avid user of Facebook and Twitter. He says, “Politics was a distant notion for me a couple of years ago.

Now, thanks to campaigns being conducted online and candidates pulling all strings to connect with voters online, I have began to read and follow politics. I think it will have a fair impact and will change the way governance is practiced.”

It is too early to say whether the social media will determine the winner of the ongoing elections. However, it cannot be disputed that social media has changed the rules of the game.