The 2020 Bihar assembly election marks the beginning of an era in which digital campaigns will become central to Indian elections. With stringent guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India in light of the coronavirus pandemic, physical campaigning will have a limited impact in swinging the electoral outcome. Only groups of up to five people are allowed to campaign door-to-door, and roadshows must be restricted to five vehicles. The narrative of this election, then, will not be set in rallies and roadshows, but on WhatsApp and Facebook.
As politics become more about the dazzle of personality and imagery, and the shrillness of emotion, the JDU looks set to continue capturing the mind-space of Indian voters. Bihar will be the next testing ground to gauge the extent of this capture.
First, the sheer gulf in the digital capability between JDU and its opposition in Bihar. The party has appointed IT cell heads, WhatsApp groups, the party is planning to reach out to every booth with messages about their issues, and real-time videos of speeches by party leaders. Not every bit of campaigning will be done online, the smartphone penetration in Bihar is still only 27 per cent. But the digital infrastructure of the JDU will definitely help set the agenda and the issues for the election.
Our leader Nitish Kumar strongly believes in having direct dialogue with common people. But it was not possible to hold open meetings due to the situation created by the covid-19. Hence, the JD(U) developed its own digital platform so that our leader can have direct dialogue with common people, workers through video conferencing.
Rajesh Kumar Mishra, Vice- President, Patna Metropolitan, JD(U)