Congress Tops Facebook Advertising as BJP Proxies Curiously Vanish

Congress spent Rs 19.83 lakh on 194 ads, most of them focusing on its manifesto. 

3 min read
Congress Tops Facebook Advertising as BJP Proxies Curiously Vanish

The week preceding the first phase of Lok Sabha Elections 2019 has witnessed something unprecedented.

For the first time since Facebook introduced its ads library in February, the Congress party has emerged as the top spender on political advertisements for the week from 31 March to 6 April.

Further, the ascent of the Congress to the top of the advertisers list has coincided with the complete disappearance of proxy BJP pages, which have consistently been among the biggest weekly spenders on Facebook ads.

While Congress spent Rs 19.83 lakh on 194 ads for the week, over the same seven-day period pro-BJP pages like Bharat ke Mann ki Baat, My First Vote for Modi and Nation with NaMo did not spend a single rupee on political advertisements for the week ending 6 April.

However, despite their disappearance in the last week, these three pages are still the highest spenders overall on ads paid for between February and 6 April. The three have collectively spent Rs 4.49 crore on over 13,000 advertisements.


Congress Ads Highlight Manifesto Resolutions

What has prompted this sudden spike in ads spending by the Congress?
The 194 advertisements published between 31 March and 6 April comprise primarily of resolutions made in the Congress manifesto that was officially released on 2 April by party president Rahul Gandhi.

The advertisements appear in English, Hindi and a variety of other regional languages highlighting promises on a number of key promises including

  • 34 lakh new jobs
  • Reservations of jobs for women
  • Ending hate crimes
  • Increasing healthcare budget
  • Simplifying GST
  • Abolishing ‘Angel Tax’ for startups
  • Withdrawing the Citizenship Amendment Bill
  • Modernisation of defence infrastructure
A Congress Facebook ad highlighting its promise of simplifying GST. 
(Photo courtesy: Indian National Congress/ Facebook) 

Overall since February, the Congress has spent Rs 25.75 lakh on a total of 604 advertisements. In the same period, the BJP has incurred a cost of Rs 34.64 lakh on 1,101 advertisements.

Therefore, in overall spending since February, Congress is still behind the BJP, its proxy pages and currently ranks eleventh. Therefore, of the Rs 25.75 lakh the party has spent overall in the last two months, Rs 19.83 lakh was in just the last week. Similarly, nearly one-third of the 604 total ads were released in the last seven days. 

Why Have Proxy BJP Pages Taken a Backseat?

The three big spending proxy pages – Bharat ke Mann ki Baat (BKMKB) , My First Vote for Modi and Nation with NaMo – are still the top three advertisers overall. Congress’ total spending pales in comparison as all three have spend in excess of a crore, with BKMKB having spent over Rs 2 crore alone.

Below is a breakup of their individual spending.

The question then, is, why the sudden break from advertising, especially when the first phase of polling is round the corner?

Two explanations appear plausible:

1. A recent investigation by Huffington Post India revealed that the three pages, which position themselves as organic, supporter-run pro-BJP pages, are in fact run indirectly by the BJP itself through a secretive in-house consultancy called Association of Billion Minds (ABM).

2. One of the pages, My First Vote for Modi, was observed to have put up ads which potentially count as bribes to voters. The Quint and Alt News had reported that the page had put up several ads in Hindi and English offering free NaMo merchandise like t-shirts, badges and bags in exchange for a pledge to vote for PM Modi.

Incidentally, just two days before the ads appeared, on 24 March, PM Modi’s official Twitter handle had retweeted a tweet endorsing the same NaMo merchandise.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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