The much anticipated assembly elections are due in the state of Uttar Pradesh in early 2017. The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) is set to complete a full term of five years and is set to lock horns with the other major parties. With 403 assembly seats, UP is India’s largest state; and this is going to be India’s largest state election. Incumbent SP and main opposition Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will have to compete with B.J.P and Indian National Congress to capture the most influential state assembly in the country.

Some of India’s most prominent Lok Sabha M.P’s like Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, Smt Sonia Gandhi, Shri Rahul Gandhi, Dr. Murali Manohar Joshi, and Smt Menaka Gandhi were elected from U.P elections.

The decisive state constituency in Indian politics, UP also has the highest female population in the country. However, women have always been under-represented as political leaders and elected representatives in the state’s assembly. Only a handful of women contest for seats in the elections and even the ones who contest are often mere substitutes for their husbands or upper caste men of their villages.

BJP Mahila Morcha’s new president Swati Singh is just one of the examples of this proxy politics. Swati is the wife of Dayashankar Singh, who got sacked recently by BJP for making an objectionable remark against BSP chief Mayawati.

“Appointed” and not elected as President of the women’s wing – Democracy at its best.

The stereotyping of women as inept at handling political leadership is the biggest reason why there is a tremendously low participation of women in UP elections. By participation, I’m not just talking about contesting; most women in UP don’t get a say in anything related to politics or elections.

Women in UP – A sad state of affairs

According to the 2011 Indian census report:

  • Ghaziabad tops the list among the UP cities with at least 50 complaints by women every month!
  • UP has the largest number of girls married between 10-19 years (2.1 million) in India1
  • Women in UP marry youngest (19.4 years)
  • At 27.8, UP has the highest MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate) among all Indian states, followed by Rajasthan (23.9) and Bihar/Jharkhand (21.4).
  • Uttar Pradesh women also bear the most children on an average (4.14)
  • As many as 38,467 crimes against women were registered in UP – one every 15 minutes
  • UP stands in the fourth position for India’s lowest female literacy rate – 56.4%.

Digital penetration in UP

The stats that you just read are indicators of the tough life that women in UP lead everyday. But has there been a change in the state of affairs? Of course there has been was our first answer. Because of rapid internet penetration, people have easy access to information now. This should result in a more aware population – especially that of women who don’t usually get a chance to speak their minds about politics here. With that assumption, we started to analyze the online videos that are doing the rounds in relation to the UP elections. And boy, weren’t we surprised!

According to TRAI, Uttar Pradesh has the second largest Internet subscriber population in India at 22.90 million. Although most of these connections are in urban areas, connectivity is getting better in rural UP as well. (Mobile internet connections in India doubled between 2014 and 2016)

However, have the political parties been able to capitalize on this digital growth? Have they used it to educate the people and reach out to more women? To come up with the answers, we analyzed the online video footprint of the top 4 political parties which are in the ring for this election.

Note: The analysis takes into account all the videos on the parties and not just the videos that they upload from their YouTube channels.

The political parties and their mascots that we chose for the analysis –

  • Narendra Modi – Bharatiya Janata Party 

    u p election parties

    U.P Election Parties

  • Akhilesh Yadav – Samajwadi Party
  • Mayawati – Bahujan Samaj Party 
  • Asaduddin Owaisi – All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen 
  • Sheila Dikshit – INC 

Bharatiya Janata Party   

One of the major reasons often cited while describing BJPs victory in the previous general elections, was their ability to effectively use the internet – especially Social Media – to sway the general sentiment of the people. Unsurprisingly, BJP is the leader among all the political parties in the country when it comes to YouTube. Its YouTube channel has over 135 thousand subscribers and its videos have clocked over 38 million views!

  • BJP is also the most active among all the channels with more than 10 thousand uploads and live streams on the channel.
  • BJP live streams and uploads public speeches, press conferences, Rajya Sabha clips, Lok Sabha clips, emotional videos and videos against rivals.
  • In the last 6 months, the most viewed video on the channel is Infiltration in West Bengal which has 1.7 million views.
  • Most popular videos of BJP are either their election campaigns or speech videos of their eminent party members.
Demographic breakup of viewership

BJP – Viewership demography

Indian National Congress

The closest rival to BJP, Indian National Congress has a YouTube channel with over 16 thousand subscribers and their videos have clocked over 20 million views so far!

  • Congress also uploads public speeches, press conferences, Rajya Sabha clips, Lok Sabha clips, emotional videos and videos against rivals.
  • Focus of Congress is majorly on two topics – Welfare for farmers and exposing BJP’s failures.
Demographic breakup of viewership

Indian National Congress – Viewership demography

Samajwadi Party

Compared to BJP and Congress, Samajwadi Party does not have a big presence on YouTube. Their YouTube channel just has around 150 subscribers and their videos are focused more on educating people about the party’s achievements.

However, if you analyze all the videos that are there on YouTube related to the party, the general sentiment is quite negative. Sample some of these video titles – Samajwadi Party MLA Threats Hotel Manager When Asked to Pay Rs 8500 Bill, Samajwadi Party And BJP Workers Clash During PM Live Programme In Allahabad, Samajwadi Party MLA’s supporters thrash toll plaza employees. This will only reinforce the negative image that the tech savvy generation has, about the party.

Demographic breakup of viewership

Samajwadi Party – Viewership demography

Bahujan Samaj Party 

One of the five biggest national political parties in the country, Bahujan Samaj Party is currently headed by Mayawati who is widely regarded as a self-made woman politician. BSP’s YouTube footprint is quite negligible though.

Demographic breakup of viewership

BSP – Viewership demography

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen

AIMIM does not have a big presence in UP. However, it had opened its account in the state by winning four Zilla panchayat seats last year — one each in Azamgarh and Muzaffarnagar and two in Balrampur – where two of its four candidates were Hindus.

Note: One of the main reasons why the party got some mileage on YouTube was because of the recent controversy surrounding Trupti Desai in Haji Ali Dargah.

Demographic breakup of viewership
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen

Are things going to change?

It is quite disheartening to see that women represent only about 4-5% of overall viewers for all political parties in this election. Things can only change when these parties start selecting strong women leaders as contestants. The female population should at least get to choose a candidate that they can vouch for and can relate to.

The present chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has announced some ambitious schemes centered around women. One can only hope that they are implemented and the future of UP is not decided just by its men, but also by its women.