Will social media influence Lok Sabha elections this year? A question that did the rounds in 2013 and I had been harping that it won’t since social media penetration is at a miserable level in the country but it will be the new medium along with the traditional mediums for open debate and controversies.
With Twitter gaining good adoption from political leaders and their respective parties, Facebook, country’s largest social network didn’t want to be left behind. The social network that has more than 93M active users in India came up with a disruptive idea keeping the polls in mind – “Candidates 2014 on Facebook Talks Live.”
Tying up with NDTV and Newslaundry, Facebook is giving its users a chance to discuss the electoral agenda with the country’s top politicians including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and Lalu Prasad Yadav, the former railway minister recently convicted of corruption.
Initially the list of top politicians included BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi who was the first guest at the event on the 3rd of this month. But, at the last moment Modi pulled himself out for unknown reasons.
Facebook updated the news on its page by the 2nd of this month. The social network regretted the cancellation from Modi and also updated that Kejriwal would be the first guest on 4th March. Subsequently Newslaundry, has issued a statement saying that Modi laid down some conditions just two days prior to the event. The demands were not accepted leading to Modi’s withdrawal from the live talks.
With Modi pulling out, he joins Rahul Gandhi, VP of Congress party who seems to have not shown any interest for this kind of interaction till now. However, Newslaundry seems to be in talks with the Gandhi scion as the Delhi-based media watchdog website plans to have a second round of such talks over Facebook before the polls.
Facebook Live is inspired from the U.S. President Barack Obama‘s “Facebook Live” townhall session which he did with the American public during his first term in 2011. Madhu Trehan, a veteran Indian journalist who partly owns Newslaundry would be moderating the hour long interview. People through Facebook and a live audience can ask questions. The interviews will also be aired on the NDTV news channel and streamed live online.
Candidates 2014 will see citizens asking direct questions to the politicians to know their view points for the first time. Politicians accepting invites to such events also highlight their intent towards social media and their receptivity to take on live audience questions.
Google Hangouts has been doing similar initiatives for some time now but the questions are moderated beforehand giving much needed respite to the politicians. Modi had been part of such a Hangout in 2012 which was watched in 116 countries; it would be interesting to see how Candidates 2014 fares tonight.