SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

Populism, propaganda, and polarisation: The social media strategies of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress

Populism, propaganda and polarisation
Sangeeta Mahapatra (Visiting Fellow, GIGA Institute of Asian Studies)

Date: 11 January 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 11 January 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Talk


India, the world’s most populous democracy and the second largest online market, has witnessed the increased use of the social media by political parties to propagate their ideology, mobilise public opinion, set policy agendas, and discredit detractors. Unlike the traditional media, the new media provides political parties opportunities to directly and continually engage with voters.  For a country of multiple nations, battling centrifugal forces, this continuous campaign mode politics might amplify sectarian differences, conflate popularity with legitimacy, and create echo chambers, polarising the voters. This talk focusses on the social media strategies of the two largest and most powerful political parties of India, the centre-right Bharatiya Janata Party, which currently heads the coalition government of India, and the centre-left Indian National Congress, the major opposition party, in the run-up to the 2019 General Election. It analyses the shift in the content and tactics of their social media strategies since the 2014 General Election and makes an impact assessment of online extremist speeches of political actors.


Dr. Sangeeta Mahapatra is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Asian Studies, German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Hamburg, Germany. She has been a former Fulbright Research Fellow at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, Ohio State University, U.S.A., and a Global South Network scholar at the Graduate institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, and has specialised in security studies and identity politics. She’s the Executive Editor of the Indian business magazine, Business Economics. As a journalist and an academic, she has covered the elections in India for the past ten years, as well as undertaken field studies on human rights and Hindu-Muslim relations in West Bengal, India. She has taught Indian politics and the use of the New Media for political communications at the Department of Political Science, Presidency University, Kolkata, and the Department of Mass Communications, NSHM Knowledge Campus, Kolkata. Her publications include Terrorism and Counter-terrorism Strategies: A Comparative Study of India, Israel, and the United States of America (forthcoming), Energy Security and Sustainability: Challenges and Prospects (Avenel, 2017), The Rise of Red Terror: The Ethics and Effectiveness of Maoist Violence in India (MCISS, 2010), Economic Globalisation: Understanding the process beyond the polemics (Prentice Hall India, 2009), Human rights in Pakistan: A heuristic of hope and despair (Gyan Books, 2009), and Communalism and Politics: Hindu-Muslim Relations in Kolkata’s Interface Areas (SIRRS, Jadavpur University, 2007). She is currently working on a research project on online extremist speeches of political actors in India and their impact on ideological polarisation and offline violence.

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