India Elections ‘09: Netizens react to Political Campaigns – II

In our first post of this series, we had brought to you glimpses of how netizens were reacting to the BJP's online campaign. In this post, we will explore reactions to the  election campaign of the Indian National Congress (INC).

Although initially the INC appeared to be lagging behind the online blitz unleashed by the BJP, very soon it woke up to the potential of the Social Web. However, being a late starter, the Congress party's campaign seemed to be always discussed in comparison to the BJP campaign.

The Congress party's new website launched mid-March 2009, sported the party's election slogan “Aam Aadmi Ke Badhte Kadam, Har Kadam Par Bharat Buland” (The ordinary man marches forward and with his every step, India is strengthened). Blogger Dimakh was not very impressed with the initial effort. He writes:

The website (of the INC) is not that attractive and not upto the mark of BJP which has lot of interesting features and seems to be updated more often. The site also seems to be done in frames technology which is very outdated and non search engine friendly. A very few ways to allow people interaction or no use of blogs and videos.

Apart from renewing their website, the Congress also launched online advertising featuring the party's Prime Ministerial candidate Dr. Manmohan Singh, the party's president Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and the party's general secretary, her son Mr. Rahul Gandhi.

screenshot of a Congress ad showing on Bollywood Frames, an entertainment blog.

screenshot of a Congress ad showing on Bollywood Frames, an entertainment blog.

As part of their online campaign strategy, the Congress also set up 600 Internet kiosks across the country. Taragana writes about the kiosks set up in Gujrat.

The kiosks have laptops to show the achievements of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

These kiosks will be installed across various public places like malls, restaurants where they are bound to attract the youth and will fill them on the successes of UPA through audio-visual presentations.

Around one-and-half-year has gone into planning and creating these kiosks, which will also allow the users, an access to free internet usage for 20 minutes along with highlights of the schemes and achievements of the UPA vis-’-vis its opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

However, the part of the campaign for which the Congress has been most in the news is their election videos. Having purchased the rights to the Oscar winning song “Jai Ho” from the much-in-the-news film Slumdog Millionaire, the Congress initially launched a video campaign with three 60-second ad films using the Jai Ho music and jingle.The lyrics in these videos (1, 2, 3) extolled the Congress party's heritage, leaders, achievements and various schemes launched for the Aam Aadmi (common man).The videos were splashed across TV channels, YouTube and the audio was played on radio. Though they became popular, the videos soon drew comparison with the BJP's “India Shining” campaign of 2004.

Vinod Sharma writes in his blog:

It is the Congress now that has all but copied the failed ‘India Shining’ campaign of the BJP. ..Effectively, “Bharat buland” is all but India Shining/Rising in Hindi. Now go to that same poor man in the same hut five years after he was informed that India was shining, with this slogan. This time the Congress is returning the favour to the BJP, it seems.

The BJP, on it's part, was quick to retaliate with an ‘unofficial’ parody “Bhay Ho” (Let there be fear) attacking the ‘celebratory stance’ of the Congress at the time of terror attacks, inflation, recession, job losses etc.

Soon enough, the Congress pulled the videos off air, though they continued on YouTube. Twenty-22 writes:

Congress’ ‘JAI HO’ is temporarily off the air. Negative feedback on the celebratory approach of the three short films, released earlier in March, has forced the party to reconsider using them…A senior party leader confirmed that the three ‘Jai Ho’ films prepared by Percept in early March will not be aired at all during the campaign. The initial response to the idea of using ‘Jai Ho’ as the theme song was that it sounded good, but it is a “delicate walk to the other side”. The argument is that there is an “underbelly to this song and film which is not very palatable to the Indian sensibility”. It is now feared that the campaign could expose Congress to attacks from the Opposition, which would argue that the party was responsible for the existence of slums. A message that would run counter to and cancel out Congress’ claim as the force of progress.

A fresh video campaign, focusing on empowerment of the common people, was launched and is now being aired on TV channels, their official website and on YouTube.

Apart from video, Congress party is now campaigning through Facebook and Orkut. The Gujrat wing of the Congress party and some support groups like JoinINC and InCIndia are also on Twitter now but relatively low on noise. In their own words

INCIndia @Gauravonomics This isn't the official Congress a/c but one that serves to compensate for the relatively meagre Congress presence online.

Sveta Singh at iStrat Digital Marketing Blog offers a comprehensive evaluation of the Congress’ online campaign vis-vis that of the BJP. She writes:

Mr. Advani is not the only one wooing voter online now. With Congress waking up to the reality of online media, Election 2009 has truly turned into a digital war. Though Congress had stepped in late, still it is interesting to see what activities they are doing online.

Here are a few observations:

  • Unlike BJP where the whole Campaign is built around the communication Advani as PM, Congress’s online campaign is more party centric than personality oriented. Congress party’s ads are driving clicks to the party website, whereas the BJP ads are linked to Mr. Advani’s website
  • Both parties are using Google Adwords for their campaign. This has resulted in a unique situation where, on a single page, there are multiple ads where both BJP and Congress are vying for space from each other.
  • Congress has gone for 720×80 positioning and text-ads compared to BJP’s wide range of ads. Also it looks like Congress is offering a higher bid price, because, most ads are now showing Congress in the 720×80 positioning.
  • Mr. Advani’s blog has shaped up very well. His posts are frequent and well written. On the other hand, Congress’s blog looks like an initiative gone wrong – bad formatting, errors, uneven fonts and the list goes on…
  • On YouTube, Congress seems to have got it right. The channel has 31 videos. The party’s Jai Ho Film is very popular with views as many as 40000. The BJP uploader on YouTube is also very popular and has 260 videos.
  • Congress’s presence on Facebook and Orkut also leaves much to desire, when compared with BJP.

This post is part of the Global Voices special coverage on Indian Elections 2009


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