Rahul Gandhi’s Congress spent Rs6.8 lakh on two tweets

Late to the party.
Late to the party.
Image: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
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As India’s mammoth election enters the final stages, the primary opposition party has for the first time paid for Twitter ads.

The Indian National Congress (Congress) yesterday (May 09) spent over Rs6.8 lakh ($9,700) on two promoted tweets, one in Hindi and one in English. These were part of the party’s #DelhiWithCongress social media campaign. The post in Hindi contained a link to a music video of an original song, Bhakt ka Chashma, a satirical take on the Bharatiya Janata Party supporters’ supposedly blind devotion towards the party.

With those two tweets alone, the Congress has already spent almost five times the amount the BJP has (less than Rs1.4 lakh) since last month when the ruling party began advertising on Twitter. 

These figures are listed on Twitter’s Ads Transparency Centre, a resource rolled out in India ahead of elections, which details the tweets promoted by registered political advertisers.

As expected, given the higher spending, the Congress’s tweets have been seen by more people than the BJP’s.

But when it comes to impressions-per-rupee, the BJP, whose Twitter handle has around 10 million followers compared to the Congress’ five million, is getting more value for its money.

Still, Twitter remains a ghost town for political ads in India, especially compared to Facebook. So far, the BJP’s official Facebook page—to say nothing of other campaign-affiliated pages—has spent over Rs3.6 crore ($514,000) on ads. Its Twitter spending is less than 0.4% of that.

The Congress, which has spent just over Rs91 lakh on Facebook, has used around 7.5% of that figure on Twitter so far, just in one day.

The Tamil Nadu Youth Party (TNYP) is the third and final entity to be registered as a political advertiser on Twitter. This minor player, which has spent over $670 on Twitter ads, has not run any Facebook ads from its official page at all.

Only eight individual Indian politicians are registered as advertisers on Twitter. And like the two major parties, they seem to be spending fairly conservatively on the platform. The largest outlay by an individual politician has been made by the Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) Naveen Patnaik, chief minister of the eastern coastal state of Odisha. 

Half of these politicians advertising on Twitter are from the BJP, but three of them have spent less than $100 (below which Twitter does not report exact figures). The Congress has two former members of parliament, both contesting elections this year, advertising on Twitter. 

Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.