Threat to Indian Democracy as the BJP Continues to Use Social Media Platforms to Influence Voters

In the run-up to the world’s largest democratic exercise, the current ruling party is leaving no stone unturned to promote its agendas and influence the voters; mainly through the use of social media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter. Time and again, the saffron party has been accused of spreading fake news and promoting its propogandas by customizing the messages for its target audience. What is being missed in this extensive exercise, is the grave threat that it imposes on the Indian democracy.


The BJP IT Cell, headed by Amit Malviya, has enrolled thousands of volunteers to ensure that Modi’s message is being reached all across the nation.

Shivam Shanker Singh, a whistleblower and an ex-member of the BJP IT Cell has revealed the ‘modus operandi’ of the cell. He has accused the Hindu right-wing party of manipulating the voters merely on the basis of emotions and nationalist appeals. He says that a dedicated team collects personal data of the voters (through the electoral roll), analyses them and then adds them to specific WhatsApp groups based on their caste, religion, age-group, local issues and  prejudices. Further, Mr. Singh has exposed the BJP’s polarisation attempts to create a Hindu-Muslim divide by sending across specific messages through such public platforms.

The possibility of performing such large scale activities poses serious questions on the credibility and reliability of our data protection laws.

Recently, there had been reports of Mr. Malviya editing politician and psephologist Yogendra Yadav’s speech to make it appear as a communal speech catering to the Muslim population. Later, Yadav rebuffed the allegations by tweeting a link to the entire video which revealed that it was from 2018 when he was addressing a crowd in Kolgaon, Haryana in the aftermath of the lynching of Rakhbar Khan in Alwar, Rajasthan.

Another investigative report by Journalist Samrath Bansal has revealed that the BJP-sponsored NaMo app is spreading misinformation. A report by the Alt News has shown a pro-BJP account, The India Eye, promotes fake news on social media and the NaMo App. Further, the ruling party and its members have spent the highest on political advertisements especially on Facebook. A report by HuffPost India has confirmed that the BJP has hired a Jaipur-based private company, Sarv Webs Pvt. Ltd, to push its political propaganda through mass messages on WhatsApp.

Brushing aside all allegations of giving misinformation to sway the voters, Bihar’s BJP IT Cell head, Manish Pandey, in an interview to Al Jazeera, said, “Our product is Modi; anyone can sell this product on the streets. You don’t have to open a special showroom for it. Modi is a well known brand, a huge product.” He further added, “There are over 50,000 whatsapp groups that we maintain officially. There are facts that the print media may not be able to convey to the people, then there are some media outlets that don’t like us, so they don’t convey our view. So we convey our own message through social media and our volunteers.”  However, such groups are infamous for disseminating misinformation and provoking sectarian tensions.

Reportedly, Facebook has removed 687 pages and accounts linked to individuals of the Congress IT Cell and 15 pro-BJP pages and accounts. Further, around $39,000 has been spent on advertisements by the Congress-connected pages while $79,000 was spent on advertisements by Silver Touch, a Ahmedabad-based IT firm which has developed various projects for the BJP government including the NaMo App. Recently, twitter also deleted two controversial tweets from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s handle after the Election Commission issued a notice to the micro-blogging site. It even deleted the tweets of Union Minister Giriraj Singh, Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa and BJP’s IT cell head Amit Malviya, among others, as they violated the model code of conduct.

With the fight for power intensifying, politicians are trying all means possible to influence the voters even if that requires spreading of fake news or falsely implicating the opposition. The BJP leads this race!



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