The Political Battle on India’s Regional Social Media

As the world’s largest democracy gears up for its general elections, politicians and parties have opened up accounts on Indian-language platforms, hoping to woo the electorate.

Puja Changoiwala

March 22, 2019

The Political Battle on India’s Regional Social Media
Surendra Kumar Yadav, who hails from a rural town in Uttar Pradesh, has over 25,000 followers on ShareChat

Twenty-year-old Surendra Kumar Yadav often rides 38 kilometers on his bicycle from Ahirawal, Uttar Pradesh, India to a cyber cafe in the nearest city, Chilbila. He wants to upload the latest video of his cricket commentary on ShareChat, an Indian social media platform. Recently, Yadav has become a mini-celebrity, garnering over 25,000 followers.

For Yadav, whose village has only 180 people, fame is overwhelming and accidental. Two years ago, he saw a popup on his smartphone demanding that he “download the 100% Indian app [ShareChat] immediately.” Yadav did so, then shot a video with Hindi commentary on a local cricket match, and uploaded it. The video went viral.

“On ShareChat, I felt at home...it spoke to me in my own language,” says Yadav. “I had always dreamed of moving beyond my limited geography, and engaging with a wide audience.”

ShareChat, a mobile app on which users can share content in regional languages, was launched October 2015.  Within 18 months, it reported amassing 25 million monthly active users. But, over the past year, it has also added over 100 political accounts, run by leaders or their parties.