Key political parties in stepped up activity on social media platform around the time of the country’s largest state elections.

The number of tweets in January 2022 were higher than 2021 for four out of the five major parties in the fray, shows data from an analysis by the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-Hyderabad) and the University of Michigan. The increase was as high as 41 per cent shows the data shared with Business Standard.

The average number of tweets for the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) was up 41 per cent. It was 14.2 per cent higher for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and 25.2 per cent higher for the Samajwadi Party (SP). The larger national parties did not see as much of an increase. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activity was up 1 per cent, though it remains the party with the largest number of tweets by far. The Indian National Congress (INC) saw number of tweets dropping 19.7 per cent over January last year (see chart 1).

Party leaders got more engagement on their individual accounts than the party handle. For example, Akhilesh Yadav got more engagement than the SP party account. This also held true for BJP’s Yogi Adityanath, INC’s Priyanka Gandhi and BSP National President Mayawati.

The analysis also looked at the language political parties used to communicate with their followers. It said that contrary to the popular perception of Twitter being dominated by the English language, it was Hindi that was most widely used among the analysed political handles (see chart 2).

It accounted for the majority of tweets across parties. The highest was SP with 95.8 per cent. The RLD followed with 94.2 per cent. The BSP was 91.2 per cent while the BJP was 89.4 per cent. The Indian National Congress had the lowest share of Hindi tweets ahead of the UP election. It was 68.5 per cent.

“Only 14% of the entire sample of tweets from politicians between October 2021 and January 2022 are in English. Most tweets are in Hindi, with the occasional use of other languages,” said the study.

Interestingly, Akhilesh Yadav gets more retweets per tweet than current Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Priyanka Gandhi gets more retweets than either of them.

Social media activity has become more important in light of restrictions on physical campaigning because of Covid-19. The election commission had reiterated the ban on road shows, rallies and processions on January 31, extending it into February even as cases began to taper.

“…positivity rate is showing a decline with the number of hospitalisation cases also registering a declining trend… protocol precautions need to be continued to be observed so that no undue spurt takes place due to intense public contact because of heightened political activity,” said a press statement issued on January 31, though some relaxations like physical public meetings with 50 per cent capacity were allowed.

The elections are being held in seven phases. The second phase ended on Monday. The last phase will end in March 2022.

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