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Insta poll Not alcohol, not gold or money, but graphic artists offer sharp insights on social media to influence voters during the ongoing election season

April 14, 2019 06:48 AM


Insta poll
Not alcohol, not gold or money, but graphic artists offer sharp insights on social media to influence voters during the ongoing election season
| Lalitha Suhasini
TWEETS @MumbaiMirror

What should you do if you arrive at the polling station and the First polling officer informs you that your vote has already been cast? If you’re a first time voter at the Lok Sabha elections, there couldn’t be a greater cause for panic. But if you’ve been following the Instagram account of, you’ll know what to do if such a scenario presented itself. This is the reason why, a web app that also has an Instagram handle to its name, was set up – to provide helpful information on how to vote. Launched in March by the Pune-based company Reach, is gaining followers for its seemingly unbiased posts. “We live in times where narratives are coloured by bias, debates are polarised, and the credibility of news and information is suspect. Besides is an attempt to provide simple, verifiable facts to fuel more constructive conversations,” says Varun Mukerji, 30, one of the co-founders of Reach.

Whether it is the launch of a new Doordarshan channel in Arunachal Pradesh or the national policy on biofuels, or National Supercomputing Mission, has found an ingenious way to remind Instagrammers of what the government has achieved under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Each of these accomplishments is a post presented using an electoral symbol. For instance, the national biofuel policy is represented by a can, which is also a symbol approved by the Election Commission of India. Mukerji informs that the purpose of is not to influence voters. “Rather than affecting election results, we hope that the series helps people feel less intimidated or confused by the whole voting process,” adds Mukerji.

For every veiled right-leaning post, there are others that take a scathing stance on who should or rather, should not be the next PM of the country. “The right wing wave is not just in India, but across the world. It was not one specific incident but many things that happened in the country that led to Rashtraman being created,” says Bengaluru-based graphic novelist, George Mathen. Mathen’s character Rashtraman is a superhero who draws power from oppressing the minorities and fake news among other things. “I was working on Rashtraman for a while and when the JNU incident in 2016 happened, I felt it was time to release him,” says Mathen, referring to the time when the former Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ union president, Kanhaiya Kumar, was arrested on charges of sedition in February 2016. Ahead of the elections, Mathen has been posting art that suggests in no uncertain terms that he disapproves of the Modi government. Mathen believes that the Instagram account @BraindedIndia where he posts and shares graphic art by other illustrators and artists could work as a counter campaign to the hatemongering that right wing social media pages seem to encourage. Brainded India’s Instagram page has 14,000 followers and Mathen is aware that it caters to a niche audience. “It’s too ambitious to say that my art can change influence voters. I’d like to think that it can open up a dialogue,” says Mathen, who writes using the pseudonym, Appupen.

There’s hope yet for young voters who are having conversations on social media about who should come to power at the Centre next, says Kruthika NS, a 24-year-old lawyer based in Bengaluru who posts political and feminist drawings on Instagram as @theworkplacedoodler. “It’s great to have a conversation on politics that is neither a shouting match nor an echo chamber,” adds Kruthika. The young artist too is not a supporter of the current government. “Even before election season, many of the government’s faux pas have found their way into my art - whether it’s its blatant silence surrounding the #MeToo Movement, or its treatment of the Transgender Persons Bill with an absolute lack of empathy, it’s been called out.” Her Instagram account @workplacedoodler lost many followers (currently has 676 followers), Kruthika admits, but her posts have also been shared by many.

An image of prime minister Narendra Modi picking petals off a lotus stem as he deliberated on a decision of imposing GST on sanitary pads, received close to 900 likes on Kruttika Susarla’s Instagram page. With close to 13,000 followers, this Delhi-based illustrator and comic maker began her commentary on the Modi government in 2017. Another post on her account shows panels that bleed from orange to red and takes a dig at everything from the beef ban to the recent Pulwama attack, sparking a debate between haters and supporters of her art. “Hate is something I’ve been receiving very recently actually. What I learnt about making political comics and putting them out online is that when it’s an abstract concept like a policy or Aadhaar or the “government” as an anonymous entity is questioned, it doesn’t seem to rub anyone the wrong way. The moment, a single person or leader is held accountable, people seem to perceive it as a personal attack,” she adds.

In the days ahead, as the country decides who should form the next government, artists are rooting for a change in thinking. “Art gives you the onus of making the decision rather than dictating what to do and artists hope that the viewers are smart enough to make the right choice,” says Mathen.

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