A chaupal or town square, is the hub of community life in villages and small towns across India. Often, under a shade-giving tree, citizens gather with their local leader to discuss common problems and come up with solutions. Since chaupals are integral to the democratic process in India, in the run up to #LokSabhaElections2019, @TwitterIndia introduced #ChaupalOnTwitter to bring the physical chaupal to the digital world.
The idea is simple and integrates the physical and online audience into a ‘digital chaupal’. Leaders invite participation via questions on Twitter using a custom hashtag.
Since January 2019, there have been nine #ChaupalOnTwitter events conducted across India, held largely in non-metro regions by both national and regional party leaders. During these live chaupal events, political leaders answered questions from the election manifesto to constituency-related grievances. They were able to address their constituency at the event as well as those on Twitter using the hashtag, effectively engaging the wider public on a larger range of issues from across the country.
The initiative was kickstarted by Samajwadi Party Chief and Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav (@YadavAkhilesh) in Kannauj on January 11, 2019, followed by Rashtriya Janata Dal Leader Tejashwi Yadav (@yadavtejashwi) in Patna on January 17, 2019 , Member of Parliament (MP) Kavitha Kalvakuntla (@RaoKavitha) in Nizamabad on 30 January, 2019, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Chief Hemant Soren (@HemantSorenJMM ) in Ranchi on 13 March,2019, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Dr Satyapal Singh in Baghpat on 20 March, 2019, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari (@nitin_gadkari ) in Nagpur on 22 March 2019, former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramiah (@siddaramaiah) in Bangalore on 26 March, 2019, and BJP MP Manoj Tiwari in East Delhi on 28 March 2019. On average, approximately 5,000 questions were generated at each chaupal with the custom event hashtags.
What has been interesting about the #ChaupalOnTwitter series has been that it has integrated the idea of doing live Q&As and broadcasting to live audience. Previously, leaders have challenged the notion that social media would replace traditional chaupals. Now through #ChaupalOnTwitter, they have managed to broaden their online and offline connection to the wider community.
Local and regional media have also joined the conversation by covering the chaupals from their perspective:
Stay tuned to more #ChaupalOnTwitter events through the election season for the Lok Sabha elections 2019.