A cursory glance of the Indian interwebs reveals a world dominated by campaign ads by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Since the commencement of the election season, BJP has spent nearly ₹18 crore on political ads in Meta — and those are through official channels — the numbers climb higher as one factors surrogate pages and other unofficial channels for pushing the Prime Minister’s message. But as the 2024 elections enter their final coda and a possible 400 sweep by the BJP seems uncertain, the Indian National Congress (INC) and its supporters step up internet campaigning in Uttar Pradesh. 

businessline studied the political ads on Meta between May 12-18 using its transparency API. As 41 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh were set to go on polls in the final three phases of the elections, previously dormant surrogate pages picked up spending significantly. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — who has stepped in to campaign for her brother Rahul Gandhi, standing from Raebareli — has become the face of these surrogate ads. Special pages emblazoning her face on Meta’s social platform include, “Humari Priyanka Didi,” (Our elder sister Priyanka) and “Aa Rahi Hai Congress,” (Congress is coming) are specifically dedicated to Priyanka’s speeches on behalf of her brother. 

Amethi and Raebareli, which have been historically important seats for the Gandhi family, also have their own dedicated ad page which became a big spender in the seven days between May 12-18 called, “Amethi aur Raebareli ki Kahani” (The story of Amethi and Raebareli). In 2019, Rahul Gandhi lost Amethi to the current incumbent Smriti Irani, who is again standing for elections from here. The page, which was started in February this year, spent the majority of its funds on Meta ads between May 12-18. Most of the ads funded by this page were also related to Priyanka Gandhi. 

Top spender

A complete view of campaign spends on Meta reveals that BJP’s spends far outweighed the funds used by any other political party. Top spenders for surrogate pages (pages not clearly affiliated with the party but advertising the said party’s message) have been affiliated with the BJP as well. But as Modi’s message is received with less than expected enthusiasm, Congress’s internet campaign seems to be seeing last minute vigour. 

Take for instance the surrogate page, “Kharge Fan Club,” a page dedicated to the Congress President and the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge. Between 12-18 May, it is the largest spender amongst surrogate pages.  It is also the fourth largest spender in Uttar Pradesh. UP, which saw BJP and BJP affiliated pages dominating spends for most of the election cycle, suddenly sees its playing field become more levelled with Congress closer to the conclusion.