Earlier this year, Delhi had it’s Legislative Assembly elections for 2020.
In 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party witnessed a sweeping victory by securing 67 out of 70 seats over the Bharatiya Janata Party’s 3 seats.
What made Delhi’s 2020 Legislative Assembly elections stand out was the meme war between the political parties.
Traditional methods such as door-to-door campaigning and rallies were being carried out as usual but AAP brought the battle to the social media space by doing the one thing we love – making memes.
This was a smart move since their victory this time was important. Not only did they have to hold on to the majority but there was added pressure because of the BJP’s recent growth and stronghold over the country.
AAP’s memes varied from an edited advertisement by Ambuja Cement – to depict the BJP and INC workers trying to bring down Kejriwall – to a clip of Super Mario Bros. showing Arvind Kejriwal in place of Mario and showcasing their achievements in Delhi.
BJP’s IT cell retaliated soon, however, by creating an episode of “PAAP Ki Adalat” and by showing the story of “Arvind Palturam” as a means of defaming AAP and Arvind Kejriwal.
Campaigning through memes helped the parties in a number of ways, allowing them to make blatant humorous jabs at each other. Regular methods of campaigning such as rallies or roadshows require money, therefore, bringing the battle to the internet was also a good move for them financially.
The posts also had a huge outreach level and were tapping into a much wider source for votes. Further, as a result of the recent growth in popularity of independent news platforms over mainstream media, more people are now looking at the political sides of social media.
Memes are an effective way of spreading propaganda because they make up a large part of the content we consume on the internet on a daily basis. The parties took full advantage of this.
The memes also helped in getting more first-time voters involved in the election process too.
This method of campaigning was especially advantageous to the Indian National Congress because prior to the start of this meme war, their methods of campaigning for the elections had been dicey.
As a result of insufficiency in funds and reports of disputes amongst members of the party, the INC was almost entirely absent on the ground to campaign for the elections earlier this year. Therefore, the introduction of a cheaper and more efficient way of campaigning was useful for them.
Despite the BJP’s unhindering confidence with respect to their victory in Delhi, the results were announced on 11th February, 2020, in favour of AAP. Once again, AAP had managed to win the majority of seats in Delhi by securing 62 out of 70 seats. To celebrate their victory, AAP social media handles posted a GIF of Uncle Ben from Spiderman with a message for their voters.
Most of the memes that resulted from this virtual war had references to popular culture from the early 2000s. This made them more inclusive to the older generations also as they were able to understand the context with ease.
Thus, we hope that in the future too, political parties employ this method of campaigning again because not only is it beneficial to them in many ways but it also helps to slightly diffuse the tension among the people when elections are about to take place.
Article written by Yusra Ahmed