Social Media Influencers in Bihar Gain Political Clout in Lok Sabha Elections

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The state, known for having the youngest population in the country, is highly active on social platforms

Mohammad Alamullah

NEW DELHI – The Lok Sabha elections concluded with Narendra Modi being elected as Prime Minister for the third time. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced significant setbacks in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, failing to secure the expected number of seats.

During the recent Lok Sabha elections almost all political parties heavily relied on social media influencers and YouTubers to attract voters, with Bihar particularly active in employing this strategy.

Param Kumar from Patna covered elections on his YouTube channel The Bihar Plus. Kumar launched the channel well before the general elections and now it boasts about 56,000 followers.

He acknowledges that many YouTubers accept payments to promote specific narratives. “Several political parties in Bihar have invested heavily in YouTubers and social media influencers. All parties are involved, with some paying more than others.” He revealed that he was also approached with a similar offer during the election period.

Dheeraj, a journalist from Saharsa who operates the web portal Urvanchal Dastak, received a call about two months ago. “The caller identified himself as Ayush and requested me to issue a public statement supporting Congress for political campaigning. He proposed that I create 70 videos within a month focusing on the Seemanchal and Kosi regions, offering approximately 90,000 rupees. I countered with a higher demand, which led to the deal falling through.” Dheeraj had previously campaigned for a local candidate. Many journalists like Dheeraj are using their platforms to propagate messages for different political parties under the guise of news websites and social media.

Bihar has a total of 40 Lok Sabha seats. The NDA, comprising BJP, JDU, LJP (Ramvilas), and HAM (Secular), bagged a total of 30 seats. Both BJP and JDU got 12 seats each, and the remaining six went to smaller parties.

Opposition parties, including RJD, Congress, and Left parties, bagged the remaining 10 seats. RJD won 4 seats, Congress 3, CPI(ML) 2. Independent candidate Pappu Yadav was able to win a seat.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has played a crucial role in the formation of Narendra Modi’s new government. According to senior journalist Manoj Pathak from Bihar, local BJP leaders initially preferred to contest the 2024 Lok Sabha elections independently. However, they complied with Delhi’s directive to ally with Nitish Kumar without much opposition. It’s clear that Nitish Kumar’s alliance significantly improved BJP’s position in Bihar, which has been challenging in other states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bengal. In Bihar, the NDA secured 30 seats, underscoring Kumar’s influence.

Keshav Singh, from Bihar, has one million followers on his Instagram channel “Sab LOol Hai,” while Abhishek Singh has 200,000 followers. Several political parties approached Abhishek and Keshav for campaign collaborations. Keshav said: “Many political parties offered me substantial sums to campaign for them. You’ll find many YouTubers and influencers who indirectly support political parties. But why would anyone voluntarily disclose it?”

Why does social media get so much attention in a poor state like Bihar, where 45% of the population lacks access to mobile phones? The answer lies in past election results.

In the lead-up to the 2020 assembly elections, Tejashwi Yadav’s statement against Rajputs went viral on social media. Similarly, RSS chief’s Mohan Bhagwat’s reservation statement from the 2015 elections also garnered widespread attention online. Political commentator and blogger Ranjan Rituraj says that both the BJP and RJD suffered in the polls due to these viral videos.

Rajesh Thakur, who has worked with several prominent Bihar newspapers, points out that the Rajputs have been supporting the RJD since the 1990s because many of its top leaders belong to the community. “Tejashwi’s statement against Rajputs during the 2020 elections had a noticeable impact on several assembly seats,” he said.

Similarly, the opposition capitalised on Bhagwat’s 2015 statement on reservations, which gained significant traction on social and mainstream media. This had a notable impact, resulting in the BJP securing fewer seats.

Recognising the influence of viral content on social media in past elections, all parties heavily utilised social media for campaigning in the Lok Sabha elections. Bihar, known for having the youngest population in the country, is highly active on social platforms. This has led YouTube personalities, web journalists, and social media influencers to play a prominent role in the 2024 election campaigns, surpassing traditional leaders in publicity efforts.

Political Mitra, a consultancy firm, has served political parties and leaders across various states, including Bihar. Its founder Mukund Thakur observes: “Before 2014, most parties relied on their cadre for election campaigns. Nowadays, political consulting firms handle everything from conducting surveys and organising outreach programs to crafting slogans and managing social media presence. Many major parties now have their own private political consultants.”

In Bihar, BJP and RJD are particularly active in this regard. For instance, BJP operates agencies like “Nation with NaMo” and “Varaha Analytics”. Additionally, several prominent leaders run regional news websites that indirectly promote their agenda, a trend most pronounced in Bihar.

An article in The Economic and Political Weekly titled ‘The Emergence of Political Consulting’ says political consulting generated Rs 350 crore in business across India in 2014. The number of political consulting firms is estimated to have doubled between 2014 and 2018.

Recently, YouTuber Manish Kashyap from Bihar joined the BJP. According to local journalist Amrit Raj from West Champaran, the BJP supported Kashyap because he wouldn’t have won independently. Kashyap’s primary identity is as a YouTuber. Many influencers like him, including web journalists, often face pressure from local politicians and officials.

Sunny, who manages The Interview India web portal, explains, “I receive calls all day long from people sharing their issues. We not only highlight their problems on YouTube but also visit relevant departments to ask questions.” The Interview India boasts 144,000 followers on Facebook and 114,000 YouTube subscribers.

This demonstrates the influence of these digital influencers. During elections, top leaders actively court YouTubers and web journalists in their regions. Names like Manish Kashyap, who wield significant influence in rural Bihar, are prevalent across almost all districts, with their numbers steadily growing.

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