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Memes the weapon of choice as election wars go digital

By Kunal Dutt
April 19, 2024 17:24 IST
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From attacking political opponents to raising awareness among the electorate, colourful memes, including many drawing humorous elements from popular Bollywood films, have flooded social media as the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls began on Friday.

IMAGE: A grandson carries his 95-year-old grandfather arrive at the Jain Dharamshala polling booth to cast their votes during the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, in Kairana, Uttar Pradesh, April 19, 2024. Photograph: Jitender Gupta/ANI Photo

The 2024 Lok Sabha elections are the largest democratic exercise in the world and major political parties have tried to outwit their rivals both in rallies on ground and slugfests online.

From Instagram to X, social media platforms, in the run-up to the polls have seen bitter poster wars and even bitter meme battles for political one-upmanship.


But, amid this digital melee, the Election Commission of India, which is holding the world's largest elections, has used memes to reach out to the electorate, especially the young and first-time voters, using at times quirky lines or dialogues from famous movies to drive the message home.

"We are excited to vote in #LokSabhaElections2024 Are you ready too?#SaathChalenge #Elections2024 #ChunavKaParv #DeshKaGarv #FirstTimeVoters #ECI," the ECI posted on X on Wednesday, and used a meme based on a still from a scene from the film 'Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani' with a tagline 'Excitement of first time voters before voting'.

In the first phase, 102 seats spread across 21 states and Union territories are scheduled to go to polls, the ECI had earlier said.

Polling began on Friday at 7 am and will end at 6 pm.

Among those in the fray are Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Sarbanada Sonowal and Bhupendra Yadav, Gaurav Gogoi of Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's Kanimozhi and K Annamalai of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Voters include 8.4 crore men, 8.23 crore women and 11,371 from third gender. There are as many as 35.67 lakh first-time voters, besides 3.51 crore young voters in the age group of 20-29 years in the first phase.

As polling began for phase one of the elections, the ECI's X handle shared voters queuing up at booths, or flashing inked fingers to security personnel on duty, from multiple states, reflecting the diversity of a democratic India.

In its posts on X, the Commission also at times used languages native to the region of polling to achieve greater connect with the masses.

"Amar vote, amar doyitvo ! #MyVoteMyDuty #YouAreTheOne #IVote4Sure Check out the facts at a glance of the #Phase1 poll in #WestBengal #ChunavKaParv #DeshKaGarv # GeneralElections2024 #GoVote," the ECI posted on Friday along with photos of young and old voters of West Bengal.

With photos showing voters in Rajasthan, it used lines such as padharo mhare polling booth in its post on X.

The ECI has described elections as the "festival of democracy" and chunav ka parv, and on Thursday night, it shared an invite card on X, both in English and Hindi, calling it the 'Grand Voting Invitation' with RSVP for 'All voters of India'.

On the eve of the first phase of the polls, the ECI also put up a series of posts, digital posters on X to motivate voters to come out and exercise their franchise.

It also reposted a meme themed on film Gangubai Kathiawadi shared by Doordarshan, on Thursday, as well as a classic poster by Amul on the 2024 polls which had a pun-laced tagline -- 'World's greataste elections! Amul Your favourite choice".

The ECI's X handle also shared the message of Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Thursday in a digital poster.

"CEC appeals to every voter to come out and vote with their family and friends in #GeneralElections2024. #IVote4Sure #ChunavKaParv #DeshKaGarv #YouAreTheOne #SaathChalenge," it said.

In the past several days, the Commission has also used memes to build awareness, as on April 11 it had posted a funny meme themed on web series The Family Man, leaving netizens in splits.

Experts say memes and humour appeal to youths and hence may have the desired effect on the minds of such voters as the poll panel is seeking to boost turnout.

The ruling BJP and Opposition parties Congress, Aam Aadmi Party -- both part of INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) bloc -- have used the online medium and social media platform to outsmart each other in the 'NDA (National Democratic Alliance) vs INDIA' battle.

On Thursday, the AAP ran a series of posters on X, attacking the ruling dispensation.

"Jaan ki baazi laga denge lekin desh ke samvidhan par aanch nahin aane denge," the AAP posted a digital banner on X with a photo of its leader Sanjay Singh who was recently released from jail.

In the recent past, the AAP has targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi many times in speeches, press conferences and on social media.

One such digital poster out up on AAP by X recently, had a slogan -- Modi ko hatana hai kyoniki...." along with a tagline 'BJP Hatao, Samvidhan Bachao and an image of Modi.

On Thursday, the Arvind Kejriwal-led party also posted on X a few posters about its jail ka jawab vote se' campaign, with a hashtag #JailKaJawabVoteSe.

On March 15, the AAP had on X shared a video meme, mocking the BJP on the isse of electoral bonds, while other posts dubbed its manifesto -- Sankalp Patra as not a ghoshna patra but a jumla patra.

The BJP's social media feeds have been largely dominated by images and slogans such as 'Modi ki Guarantee' and vikas bhi, virasat bhi, both of which also figure prominently in their manifesto.

On Thursday, the Congress posted a video on X, taking a veiled swipe at the ruling BJP with a sarcastic tagline berozgari bahut hai, baki sab thik hai.

On Wednesday, the grand old party also shared a poster on X with a quirky tagline, attacking Prime Minister Modi.

The Election Commission has deployed over 18 lakh polling personnel across 1.87 lakh polling stations where over 16.63 crore voters will exercise their franchise.

While the polls got underway from Friday, the meme wars would perhaps only get bitter from hereon till its last phase on June 1.

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Kunal Dutt in New Delhi
Source: PTI© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024