Technology cannot replace money in elections

Ananya Shroff
10 Min Read

Remanent: In a democracy, it is important that there is smooth communication between voters and political parties or candidates during elections. In a country like India, this process of communication has been challenging since 1952. This is because of India's vast geopolitical expanse and its huge population.

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Increase in the number of voters
The total number of voters in the 1952 elections was 17 crore, which has now increased to 97 crore. In the first Lok Sabha elections, a total of 1949 candidates were in the fray for 489 seats in 25 states. Now there are 543 seats, which is expected to increase to more than 700 in the next Lok Sabha. In such a diverse political scenario, reaching out to all voters is a difficult and expensive task.

Role of technology
In this context, new means of communication have raised hopes in the course of technological development. The use of technology, especially in elections, began after 2004. We saw its effect in 2009 as well. But since 2014, various forms of technology have taken over Indian elections.

Adverse effect
It was the 2004 general election when voters first saw political election advertisements on huge billboards. Recorded messages, bulk messages, etc. were first used in Indian politics in 2004, but the political party that tried to do so could not win the general election despite all efforts.

Limited access
One reason for this was that at that time only 3.6% of the people in India had access to the internet, while only 2.6 crore people had access to a phone. This number cannot be considered sufficient for a diverse country like India. It was in the year 2004 when the concept of electronic voting machine was introduced for the first time in India, which played a big role in making the process of voting simple and accessible.

MNREGA was heavy
The 2009 general election saw heavy use of media, with all parties putting their information on web pages. This year, the BJP used IVR technology very efficiently to spread the party's message and election-related information to the people. But messages like MNREGA and loan waiver spread unintentionally.

Importance of media
The 2014 general election established the importance of media. Political parties were trying to reach out to nearly 97 crore voters through Twitter, 3D holograms, Facebook and other mediums. India currently has about 109 crore phone connections, which is constantly increasing. In the last decade, about 55 crore smartphone subscribers have been added in India. These numbers show that almost all sections of society in India have access to internet and mobile, which was used by almost all parties to reach out.

the distance is expected to be shorter
In 2014, the increasing use of the internet and other means of communication had raised hopes that perhaps the distance between political parties and candidates would be reduced by the increasing use of the internet. Unlike the movements in other countries of the world, India's experience was also similar that it seemed that by using the internet, more and more people could be reached with fewer resources.

Role of the organization
In 2019, the BJP was not only technically capable but by then it had established itself as the largest political party by significantly increasing its worker base. Along with technology, its controlled, capable and huge organization also played a role in the 2019 victory.

a busted myth
Until 2020, the notion persisted that candidates could reach more people with fewer resources through the internet. The assembly elections held during the Corona period broke this myth and it came to light that technology has certainly reached everyone, but adequate resources are also needed for its better and quick use. As the means and technical methods of the internet developed, it became clear that messages reach through technology, but human resources and financial resources are also needed to increase the reach on the platform and present the message in a professional manner.

Limitations of social media
People who run and influence social media platforms are associated with various political parties and some people work professionally for everyone, regardless of the political party they are associated with. In such an environment, it is futile to expect that a new person or organization will suddenly come and make its place.

Government-sponsored elections
Electoral bonds, for all their flaws, were an effective mechanism through which an individual or party could receive donations from companies. But after the Supreme Court struck them down, Indian politics is stuck in a situation where it is difficult for ordinary people to enter, unless the state takes the election process into its own hands and sponsors its expenses.

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