The Indian National Congress, and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) were among the top spenders in the week before phase one of elections (April 11). Parties other than the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accounted for four of the top five pages with highest advertising spends for the week ended April 6.
However, they still lag when it comes to overall spends. The top five pages in terms of cumulative spends are still those supporting the BJP.
The Congress topped the list of pages with the highest spends for the week ended April 6. Others in the list included the TDP, Jagananna ki Thoduga (which promotes YSR Congress Party leader Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy) and Praja Theerpu - Bye Bye Babu (also YSR Congress), and video platform Eros Now. Facebook classifies promotions for a show on Eros Now on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as political advertising.
The top two spots in the previous week were pages that seemed to support the BJP. Others in the top five list included Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik and those supporting Reddy.
The current surge in non-BJP spending comes just ahead of elections, which will be conducted in seven phases. The first phase will cover parts of states including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal.
The biggest cumulative spends are from pages which seem to support the BJP. These include ‘Nation with NaMo’, ‘My First Vote For Modi’ and ‘Bharat Ke Mann Ki Baat’.
The money spent on such political advertising across parties has crossed Rs 12.1 crore. This shows a significant slowdown from the previous week. Total spends at the time were Rs 10.4 crore. This 17.3 per cent week-on-week growth is slower than the 20.9 per cent growth seen the previous week. It is also slower than the 23 per cent growth seen in the week before.
The number of advertisements has risen to 61,248 as of the week ended April 6. It was 52,450 a week before.
The figures came to light because Facebook has begun to make disclosures on advertisements it sees as capable of influencing issues of political or national importance. The move is a bid to bring greater transparency in how social media is used in ways that might affect such issues, especially through its influence on voter behaviour.
Previously, the role of social media has come into scrutiny in the 2016 United States elections, and the United Kingdom decision on breaking away from the European Union through the so-called Brexit in 2016.
The higher spends by the Congress also seems to reflect in most-searched terms. The term 'congress' makes an appearance in the number two spot. Party President 'rahul gandhi’ is fifth on the list. All the other spots are taken by terms including ‘bjp’, ‘modi’ and ‘narendra modi’. This is in contrast to the previous week when only ‘congress’ made an appearance at number four, with all other terms being related to the BJP.