Elections 2024 is being fought as much on social media as on the ground. When it comes to splurging on political ads on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is miles ahead of other political parties.

An analysis of Meta’s ad library report by businessline reveals that BJP is splashing a lot on political ads for Maharashtra, far higher than it spends on Uttar Pradesh, which traditionally is considered the most important political battleground.

Maha splash

BJP’s spending pattern in the western state reveals that it anticipates a tough battle in Maharashtra. Thanks to the split in the Shiv Sena, and a lot of re-alignments, it promises to be a fierce fight between two coalitions – the Mahayukti one comprising BJP, Shiv Sena (Shinde faction) and NCP (Ajit Pawar) versus Maha Vikas Aghadi comprising Congress, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar’s NCP.

Thus, it is not surprising that Meta’s ad library report collating data on political ad spending between February 15 and May 14 shows BJP and its affiliates spending ₹2.5 crore on political ads in Maharashtra. In Uttar Pradesh, the party spent ₹1.9 crore on political ads in the same period.

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However, most of the ads are being uploaded closer to the election cycle. Looking at ad spends within a 30-day period between April 15 and May 14 reveals that BJP spent ₹2.2 crore on political ads on Meta’s platform in Maharashtra. In Uttar Pradesh, it spent ₹1.7 crore on political ads in that period. Given that polling in UP is taking place in all seven phases till June 1, ad spends for the state might climb further later.

Data on ad spends

Meta’s ad library API gives location-wise breakup for data on political ad spends. As of May 14, when the Indian general elections will inch past the halfway mark – BJP’s official page is the largest spender on political ads nationwide, clocking ₹16 crore in ad spends between February 15 and May 14. Indian National Congress’s official page is the second largest advertiser clocking ₹10 crore in ad spends within the same period.

However, this does not give the complete picture of the playing field when it comes to political ads on the internet. A majority of the top spenders for political ads at both the national level as well as state level are surrogate pages, largely associated with BJP. Top surrogate pages that have presence in multiple states and are some of the biggest spenders on Meta include “Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkaar”, “MemeXpress” and “Political X-Ray”, “Ulta Chashma” to name a few. A review of these ads reveals that they are largely pro BJP and anti-Congress and AAP ads.

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While Congress shows limited presence as far as political ad spends goes, its official page emerged as a top spender in several states according to Meta’s report. Its official page was amongst the top two spenders in 28 states and union territories according to Meta’s report, surpassing BJP’s official spends in a handful of states including Gujarat. However examination of top spenders on Meta even on a State-wise or region wise basis revealed that BJP quite obviously is spending more by a margin, and most surrogate pages even at a state level are largely associated with BJP.