Political Communication can be referred to as a sub-field of political science and communication. It studies the relationship between politics and citizens and the communication modes which help them connect. Political communication consists of three main elements. These are the political party, the voter and the medium of communication.
To understand Political Communication, it is important to have knowledge about these elements. First, is a political party. It can be defined as a group of people who have similar political ideology and seek to influence people by getting elected to public offices. The aim of every communication is to convince the audience and in this case the audience can be termed as the voter. The last but most crucial is the mode of communication. The medium through which the message reaches the voter. This could include political rallies, speeches, coverage, hate speeches. They become the medium if they are communicated by TV and print. Recently, another medium is emerging and that is the digital medium. It can be termed as the ‘game changer’. Digital medium includes blogs, social media, websites, emails and viral marketing.
The political parties are now realizing the importance of digital medium to connect to the people of the country, especially the youth. They not only have to be active on ground but also on digital platforms.
To be specific social media is being regarded as an essential tool for political communication. It is helping in gathering public opinion and making people participate in political and civic processes. This has been done by uploading videos on YouTube, posting messages on twitter handles and online petition. The biggest example of twitter is that of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This raises a question; can social media be used for effective political communication? Let us analyse instances in which social media played a big role in the presence of the political movement.
During the Gujrat state elections of 2012, then chief minister Narendra Modi used social media as a platform to connect to the youth. He was active on Facebook and Twitter. Modi also conducted a live chat on Google Plus. It was anchored by actor Ajeey Davgun. Through this, he became the first politician to conduct an event like this. The buzz created by him on social media attracted the youth to a large extent. Since they were more used to the digital culture. It also ended up getting the support of the middle class. Whose presence on social media was not as much as the youth but was substantial. Modi started an era of a new kind of political campaign.
Indian social activist Anna Hazare made extensive use of social media during his agitation on Jan Lokpal Bill. This not only gave a boost to his anti corruption campaign but also made the issue relevant worldwide. Even though the movement lost its momentum due to various reasons it was successful in demonstrating one thing, that is the power of social media for political communication. According to a report, Anna Hazare and Jan Lokpal Bill were mentioned in most of the statuses in the year 2011.
The politics in New Delhi was somewhat similar. In 2008 Sheila Dikshit was seeking a fresh mandate from people after winning two successive elections. The election campaign was mostly restricted to traditional media. Television was the dominant player. Since internet penetration was low, use of social media was unheard of. During the time of 2009 general elections, Shashi Tharoor was the only political leader active om social media. This tells us how less the digital medium was in use at that time. As compared to this, in 2013 provincial elections a lot had changed. The congress was surrounded by corruption allegations. The newcomer Aam Admi Party(AAP), used social media as a weapon to target the congress. It was the congress which realized very late that the war had shifted from the ground to the internet. For which they definitely had to pay a huge price.
To conclude we can say that social media does play a crucial role now in shaping political communication. However, at the same time it does require the assistance of traditional media like TV and print. Since the internet has not penetrated to the whole country. Also, a lot of consumers still use the internet only for entertainment purposes and rely on TV and newspapers for political news.