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Decode

How National Creators Award Winners Amplified BJP's Message

Our analysis found that over 60% of the winners posted content related to: Hinduism, meeting BJP leaders or endorsing the ruling party's policies or ideology.

By - Akshit chawla | 27 March 2024 5:16 AM GMT

On March 8, 2024, a month before the Lok Sabha Election, National Creators Awards were handed out to 23 creators in 20 categories by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

These awards aim to recognise creators doing exceptional work in different fields, such as social change, culture, education, and more.

At the awards ceremony, the prime minister said, “In the next few days, Lok Sabha elections will be happening – do not think that today’s event is being organised because of that”. While PM Modi categorically said that the purpose of the awards has nothing to do with the elections, it's hard to ignore the amount spent on social media campaigns for the award on the eve of elections.

The government spent over 2.4 crore rupees promoting content from the award ceremony on social media.

MyGov, a digital platform under the Ministry of Electronics and InformationTechnology, Government of India, spent 1.4 crore rupees on Meta ads between March 10 and March 16 to promote videos where India’s noteworthy influencers were seen praising the prime minister, revealed Meta’s Ad Library. This translates to a spending of over 20 lakh rupees per day on Meta platforms. 

The Central Bureau of Communication, which falls under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, spent over 1 crore rupees on video ads on Google between March 10 and March 16, 2024, according to Google’s Ads Transparency Center. In most of these videos, creators are seen sharing their experience at the awards or interacting with the prime minister. 

The video ads seemed to focus more on Modi, than on the winners of the awards. For instance, this video, which was promoted for around 75,000 rupees, begins with the crowd chanting “Modi, Modi, Modi, Modi”. It then shows the prime minister giving awards to creators. In the backdrop, the anchor, referring to Modi, says “He does not ride the trend, he is the trend”.

After the awards, the government published podcasts and short videos with several winners, which got millions of views.

For instance, in one video, which has over 1.8 million views, Jaya Kishori calls the prime minister “versatile” and shares her experience at the awards. Maithali Thakur described the prime minister as “MVP” or Most Valuable Player, a term commonly used in sports. This video has over 500,000 views.

In another video, Gaurav Chaudhary, popularly known by his channel name Technical Guruji, praises Modi for the ‘Make in India’ initiative. This video has garnered 50,000 views till now.

In addition to this, the creators who did not win the awards but were nominated, also created videos thanking the government and the PM for organising these awards. (see here and here).

These awards also served an opportunity for the government and influencers to build a stronger relationship, which could help both with more publicity.

The creators Decode spoke to expressed their willingness to collaborate with the government, but also expressed the importance of having control over their content.

Devendra Patel, who was nominated for the “Most Impactful Agri Creator” award for his Instagram account @agrilcareer told Decode that he has promoted the government’s scheme Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana in the past. He said that a third party reached out to him for this collaboration, not the government.

Naman Deshmukh, on Instagram as @techplusgadgets, who won the award for “Best Creator in Education Category" has also promoted government schemes on his account.

He told Decode that this has nothing to do with politics. “I had been talking about government schemes for two years. It’s not like I ask the government before posting any videos. There are a lot of government schemes about which people don’t know about," he said. When one of his videos about government schemes went viral, he started creating more videos informing people about various government initiatives to raise awareness, he told Decode.

Deshmukh claims that he has strong ethics regarding collaborations. “I get almost 10 weekly emails from betting apps and they offer a lot of money. But I do not take them up," the content creator said. 

Janhvi Singh, one of the winners, told Decode that “there are multiple campaigns and initiatives that the government has been doing in the country for the welfare of the society. They have contacted me for promotions and to participate in those initiatives. So, there are partnerships that we have been getting now.”

She also said that she would like to collaborate with the Ministry of Textiles and the Ministry of Culture as it is in line with one of her initiatives ‘Saree ka Sahitya’ which spreads awareness about different Indian saree prints.

Kunal Purohit, journalist and author of the book “H-Pop: The Secretive World of Hindutva Pop Stars” believes that “creators become mindful of the fact that they can't criticise the government, which is one aspect of it. The more dangerous aspect sometimes can be that they basically do exactly what the government says, and they try to please the government.”

Content creator Devendra Patel said he is scared of posting content that could “hurt a political party or a community”. He fears that the social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube) may remove him, or someone may report or file a police complaint. “You can always say things in a diplomatic way,” he added.

He said, “Totally going against someone is something different but one can speak about demanding their rights.”

Analysing social media accounts of winners

It is also interesting to look at the personalities who won the National Creators Award. Decode’s analysis found that 15 of the 23 winners had posted content that falls in at least one of these three categories: religious content, meeting BJP leaders, or endorsing the ruling party's politics or ideology.

Some influencers have posted content that could be categorised in two or three categories mentioned above, but in this analysis, one influencer has only been assigned one category, for ease of understanding.

These 7 winners actively post content related to Hinduism

Ranveer Allahbadia, known for his YouTube channel BeerBiceps, won the “Disruptor of the Year” award. Allahbadia has over 7 million YouTube subscribers and hosts a podcast titled The Ranveer Show (TRS).

He regularly posts videos on topics related to Hinduism, a major talking point for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

While not all of his content is related to religion, one can find several videos such as: ‘Who Is SHIVA?’ and “Lord Ram, Hanuman Ji, & Sita Mata - Lessons From The Ramayana”.

The award for “Best Creator for Social Change” went to Jaya Kishori, who describes herself as a “Spiritual & Motivational Speaker” on Instagram, where she has 11 million followers. On her YouTube channel, where she has 3 million subscribers, she can be seen singing various religious songs and bhajans.

Her devotion to Hindu deities is visible in her YouTube videos with titles like “Ram Ayenge”, “Mann me Ram”, “Jai Jai Radha” and more. In addition to religious content, she also posts self-help videos like “How To Stay Focused” and “5 Ways to Achieve Your Goals”.

The “Cultural Ambassador of the Year” award was bestowed upon Maithili R Thakur, who posts videos of singing songs related to Hinduism (see here, here and here).

Janhvi Singh, who won the “Heritage Fashion Icon” award, regularly posts videos about Hinduism, among other things. For instance, in these videos, she can be seen explaining different concepts and ideas from the Bhagavad Gita and Mahabharata.

The award for “Best Micro Creator” went to Aridaman whose Instagram username is @vedic_siddhanta. As is clear from his username, he posts several videos related to Hinduism and talks about Sanatan Dharma and other concepts mentioned in Hindu religious literature.

The award for “Best Nano Creator” went to Piyush Purohit who has posted several videos documenting temples in Uttarakhand.

The award for “Best International Creator” was given to Cassandra Mae Spittmann, along with two others. Spittmann regularly posts videos singing bhajans and shlokas.

These 6 creators have met BJP leaders before

Ankit Singh, who gained fame for an Instagram fitness challenge, won the award for “Best Health and Fitness Creator”. He recently met PM Modi to promote the ideas of ‘Swachh Bharat and Swasth Bharat’ (Clean India and healthy India).

Aman Gupta, the co-founder of popular audio brand boAt won the award for “Celebrity Creator of the Year”. Two months back, Gupta hosted Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar at the company’s factory and posted a photo. He gained national fame by starring in India’s version of the popular show Shark Tank, which started in 2021.

Gaurav Chaudhary, better known by his channel name, Technical Guruji, had earlier hosted a podcast with Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and discussed issues such as 5G and ‘Make in India’.

He also posted a picture with Union Minister Anurag Thakur outside his residence. However, it’s not clear what the purpose of this meeting was.

Chaudhary is one of the most popular tech creators in India with a following of over 23 million on YouTube.

The award for the “Most Creative Creator Female” went to Shraddha Jain, who previously met Narendra Modi while he was on his Bangalore visit, during which he also met other Kannada film stars. The creator better known by her Instagram handle @aiyyoshraddha has also posted a picture with Union Minister Smriti Irani, whom she met while performing a stand-up for officers in the Indian Administrative Services and leaders across various government ministries.

Kamiya Jani, founder of travel and food discovery website Curly Tales, won the award for being the “Favourite Travel Creator”. She has previously hosted food related podcasts with Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, Smriti Irani, and Anurag Thakur. She has hosted a similar podcast with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as well.

In April 2023, she published a documentary featuring Prime Minister Modi, which was posted on Modi’s official YouTube channel, Doordarshan National (see here and here), and her own company’s YouTube channel – Curly Tales.

Now, in March 2024, she has posted a series of three videos called “India In Motion” (see here, here, and here) where she has tagged the YouTube channel of Doordarshan in her description. All these videos publicise the ‘positive’ work done by the government in rail, air, and road travel. It is not clear if she was in any form of collaboration with Doordarshan for the videos. Decode has sent a query regarding this to Curly Tales, the story will be updated if and when we receive a response.

In one of the videos, in regard to India’s bullet train, she says, “Whatever I’m seeing around is way better than what I experienced in Japan, America, or Europe."

Keerthika Govindhasamy, who makes videos related to history on her YouTube channel Keerthi History, has posted a photo with Union Minister Piyush Goyal, when she was invited to take part in an “interactive discussion” along with some other creators to give feedback on government policies. 

These 2 creators have posted content that aligns with the ideas of the ruling party

The award for “Most Creative Creator Male” went to RJ Raunac, a radio jockey for 93.5 FM. Although he does not regularly post videos on politics, he has posted a video about G20, with a title on the thumbnail saying “Bharat: The Boss”, where he talks about the pride that Indians feel because G20 is being organised in India. In another video with the thumbnail text “India Banega Bharat?”, he talks about calling India as Bharat.

Both these issues have been talking points of several BJP leaders and spokespersons in the media and in TV debates. (See here and here)

“The New India Champion” award went to popular digital news creators Abhi and Niyu, who have posted several videos that align with the ideas of the ruling government. For instance, this video says, “Today, through construction of the (Ayodhya) temple, national development will be happening”.

There are 8 other creators, who based on our analysis, did not fall in any of the above categories.

Political parties in India are using the reach of social media influencers to connect with the general public. For instance, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has given an interview to Samdish Bhatiya, and several leaders from the BJP have given interviews to Ranveer Allahbadia.

This is especially important considering that around 20 crore young voters in the age bracket of 20 to 29 years and 1.9 crore first-time voters in the age bracket of 19 to 20 years are expected to vote in the 2024 General Election.

According to a research paper, “millennials and Gen Z constituted a majority of the audience of influencers on Instagram across India.”

Joyojeet Pal, Associate Professor, School of Information at University of Michigan told Decode that using social media influencers for political outreach offers certain advantages to political parties that mainstream news channels don’t. “So for instance, it makes very little sense for the BJP to do their outreach on a channel whose viewership is already firmly in their ideological line. In this sense, an online influencer who perhaps works on something entirely different, such as mobile phone reviews, or street food cultures, is entirely likely to have a relatively varied viewership, and consequently more people to convert ideologically.”

He also flagged concerns with voters getting information about politics and policies from influencers.

The job of interrogating government’s policies “was historically done either by professional journalists or by scholars” but now, “those same policies or political agendas are put forth by people who have no clear credibility on these subject areas, but are instead either showpersons or experts at other things. This will at the very least undermine peoples' understanding of political agendas in the short run, and in the long run, offer us a compromised democracy,” he added.


This is a part of Decode series ‘Viral For Votes’, where we track content creators and their role in the election campaign.