Twitter and the 2021 West Bengal Assembly Elections

Rynaa Grover and Joyojeet Pal

(Cite Grover, Rynaa, Pal, Joyojeet. 2021. What Drives Twitter Following of Indian Politicians? Online at

Social Media Activity

We plotted the social media activity for the key parties of West Bengal in the run up to the 2021 assembly elections. For this, we measured the activity of politicians who hold a political seat (candidacy, party office etc) in West Bengal. Some overall trends:

  1. Mamata Banerjee remains the key focus of the Twitter discourse
    1. The attacks on Mamata are careful, taking cognizance of her popularity and instead focusing on the party, on Abhishek
    2. The national leaders of the BJP have a larger footprint in terms of engagements compared to the state leaders
    3. The AITC appears to have moved towards more social media engagement starting in August 2019
    4. In general, the BJP social media engagements appear more effective in the northern parts of the state, whereas AITC tends to do better in the southern parts of the state.
    5. The BJP, while effective in organizing online as well as on the ground, has been less successful in building leadership at local levels outside of defections. Five of the candidates for assembly seats are Members of Parliament.
    6. The CPM and INC tend to rely on party accounts, particularly youth organizations, than on widely popular individuals. Some of the CPM’s most active social media accounts are from former student leaders
  2. Two factors make the connections on social media less polarized in West Bengal
    1. Defections: since several key politicians have switched parties, their ideological roots and their online following may lack depth
    2. Celebrities: Since both the BJP and the AITC have several celebrities on tickets, these tend to have fans and conversations across party lines
  3. West Bengal has more cross party engagement than in other states. For instance, some BJP politicians retweet typically left-leaning media outlets and likewise some AITC and CPM politicians retweet right-leaning outlets.
    1. AITC puts out more tweets about welfare schemes than other parties
    2. CPM puts out more tweets about poverty than other parties
    3. BJP puts out more tweets about Hindu-related topics than the other parties


Some of the major trends are listed, and the methodology and key data are provided at the end of the paper.


Temporal Analysis

We conducted a temporal analysis of social media activity in West Bengal between October 2020 and March 2021, and we find that the BJP and the AITC outsize all other parties in terms of total footprint. We also see that while the AITC had an upper hand in terms of overall engagement (as measured through aggregated likes and retweets) initially, since the start of 2021, the BJP has firmly led in terms of overall engagement. We see a dramatic spike in activity in March 2021.


Figure 1 Temporal trends of twitter activity by candidates from Oct 2020 – Mar 2021

While our sample of politicians is smaller for candidates from CPM and INC, it nonetheless highlights that the battle online, as it is on the ground, is between the BJP and the AITC.


Key Politicians

In the visualization below, we see the key politicians in West Bengal from among the candidates contesting the legislative assembly elections. The plot shows the total number of tweets made by each candidate between 2020 – 2021, along with the median number of retweets that they received. We find that the most retweeted politicians include Mamata Banerjee, Chandrima Bhattacharya, and Partha Chatterjee in AITC and Locket Chatterjee, Suvendu Adhikari, Mukul Roy, Rajib Banerjee, and Swapan Dasgupta in BJP. The size of the bubble represents the candidate’s follower count. The visualization also includes a number of celebrity candidates, however, a look at which are the most retweeted accounts, as shown in Figure 4, gives us a sense of some of the patterns that exist across the parties.

First, we see that the BJP tends to retweet national politicians such as Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, JP Nadda, and Kailash Vijayvargiya, with Babul Supriyo and Dilip Ghosh being the only two Bengali politicians who get significant attention. This indeed dovetails with the AITC’s narrative that the BJP is a party of outsiders, since the most visible figures on the party’s social media channels are the national leaders.

On the other hand, AITC is highly invested in Mamata Banerjee’s social media presence, with some attention to the official party handle, to Abhishek Banerjee, and Egiye Bangla, the state government handle. Key leaders from the INC and CPM have a relatively small presence on social media, and outside of a couple of leaders in those parties, the strategy tends to focus on the organizational handles, particularly the youth and student wings of both parties.

Figure 2 Individual West Bengal politicians arranged by their frequency of tweeting (x-axis) and median retweet rate (y-axis)

Our method focuses primarily on candidates for the legislative elections, thus several MPs who are influential voices in WB politics such as the Khagen Murmu, Mohua Moitra, Arjun Singh, Derek O’Brien and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury are not represented here. On the BJP side, one unusual aspect of the social media presence is that several members of parliament, including sitting MPs, are now standing for assembly seats including Nisith Pramanik, Locket Chatterjee, Ashok Lahiri, and Babul Supriyo. This suggests that while the BJP has been very effective in building a grassroots base, it has had less success building leaders.

We see that very few CPM candidates have a significant online footprint, besides the two party leaders Sujan Chakraborty and Mohammed Salim, only Dipsita Dhar and Aishe Ghosh, both of whom had online presences that are attributable to their work in student politics, have a major presence online. Even CPM leaders who defected to the BJP, such as Rinku Naskar and Shankar Ghosh do not have a significant social media presence.

We see that while a large number of politicians have a high x axis score in Figure 2, they don’t necessarily get a great deal of engagement from the public – thus cricketer Manoj Tiwary and actor Sayantika Banerjee, who have very large social media following have relatively modest engagement from the public. In contrast, cricketer Ashoke Dinda and state politicians Rajib Banerjee and Chandrima Bhattacharya tweet less frequently but get relatively more engagement.  The suggestion here is that the celebrities on the BJP side get more leverage from their social media followers than the celebrities on the AITC side.

A look at the top ten MLA candidates with over 10,000 followers who have added followers post December 2020. We see that BJP Women’s Morcha President and candidate from Asansol Dakshin Agnimitra Paul has seen the most significant increase in followers, almost tripling her following in the last few months, while CPIM student leader turned candidate Dipsita Dhar gained 74% followers in the same period. Among the highly followed politicians, Mukul Roy, Partha Chatteree, and Babul Supriyo all added over 30,000 followers in this period.

Twitter Handle Party Approximate followers Percent Increase
paulagnimitra1 BJP 32870 178%
dhardipsita CPIM 17642 74%
madanmitraoff AITC 29550 38%
itspcofficial AITC 102763 36%
mukulr_official BJP 128054 34%
firhadhakim AITC 87779 29%
rahulsinhabjp BJP 72980 22%
me_locket BJP 148211 22%
Supriyobabul BJP 316616 13%
salimdotcomrade CPIM 62387 12%

Table 1 Top ten MLA candidates who experienced an increase in the followers count post Dec 2020

Another interesting social media campaign has been that of Madan Mitra, a long-time politician, who is fighting the Kamarhati seat. Mitra had earlier fought the Bhatpara seat, vacated by AITC defector to BJP, Arjun Singh, but lost handily in the 2019 bye-election. His current fight in Kamarhati is against BJP state vice president and Anindya Raju, who despite a much smaller online following has a very significant engagement rate. While the seat itself is held by CPM, Mitra ran a close contest in 2016, and the CPM candidate Sayandeep Mitra does not have a Twitter presence.

We see that in general, the AITC did a fairly aggressive catch-up towards the BJP. For instance, if we chart the dates of when the various MLA candidates from this round of elections started their twitter accounts, we see two trends. One somewhat obvious, that a number of accounts were started in early 2021, likely the latecomers into social media who hurriedly put together social media accounts in the run up to the elections. But the other trend is a large spike in August 2019. We examined these accounts, and found that 32 of the candidates from AITC started their Twitter accounts in the exact same month of August 2019. While we can only speculate the reason, the most obvious would be a change in the party level strategy for social media, which involved building Twitter presence for a large number of party politicians, some of whom would go on to get tickets for the 2021 elections. Incidentally, this is around the time that Prashant Kishor came on board as an advisor for the party, thus it is presumable that this is aligned with an overall advance strategizing for the eventual elections.


Figure 3 Timeline of Twitter account creation by candidates contesting in 2021 Legislative Assembly Elections

Visualization of the MLA candidates shows us the key players from within WB, it is largely restricted to candidates, who do not represent the full picture of who is influential online. Since the key BJP influencers are from outside the state, and our sample also excludes Mithun Chakraborty, who came online only the third week of March 2021, and is therefore not part of the entire study period, but in a small period has become a very significant player in the online social media landscape.



Figure 4 Most retweeted political accounts by party candidates in West Bengal

The discursive strategies of the parties are likewise important. So while the BJP and AITC are generally more direct and personal – in both promoting their leadership and attacking the opposition, the INC and CPM put more work into a more general terminology-driven strategy. For instance, the CPM uses terms such as students, workers, protest much more than any of the other parties. A look at three key topics, and the different parties’ engagement into them also highlights these differences. We used a bag of words model to look at three themes -Poverty, Government Schemes, and Hindu religion related tweets. We chose Hindu religion related tweets to select a topic in which the need to examine valence is less important (thus for studying a different faith we may need to look for positive and negative mentions, whereas in the case of Hindu religion, the tweets tend to overwhelmingly be positive). We see the differences in the parties’ approach to the various subjects. While INC and CPM have poverty-related tweets more than BJP and AITC, the BJP has religious speech (terms like religious greetings, Jai Shree Ram, Jai Maa Kali, names of gods etc) as compared with the other parties. Likewise, AITC tweets talk about schemes a lot more than the other parties, mainly talking about its own initiatives.


Figure 5 Party-wise distribution of tweets made by politicians between Jan 2020 and Apr 2021 related to three topics under analysis (IDs).

Key Battles

Some other districts are hotspots of activity. These include those districts where there are high pitched battles between two or more candidates with significant social media profiles. The most important battle in the state is arguably that between Mamata Banerjee and Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram. The two candidates have an online battle as intense as the on-the-ground contest. Other key contests in the state involving two or more high profile candidates include in Asansol District, between actor Sayani Ghosh on behalf of the TMC and BJP women’s cell leader Agnimitra Paul, who is one of the most prolific politicians in the state in terms of the total engagement with her content.  A third major contest is between former singer and BJP politician Babul Supriyo and TMC’s sitting MLA and cabinet minister Aroop Biswas. Here, while Supriyo is far more prolific online and tweets much more frequent, Biswas gets a higher per message engagement than his rival. A fourth key battle is between actor Srabanti Chatterjee contesting on a BJP ticket against TMC party general secretary and sitting minister Partha Chatterjee. A fifth is between former BJP Bengal president Rahul Sinha against sitting MLA and minister Jyotipriya Mallick, two others include the contests between film star Yash and CPM politburo member and former MP, Mohammed Salim, and between actor Koushani Mukherjee and TMC defector turned BJP vice president Mukul Roy. The pattern of high stakes social media battles typically involves either two strong candidates, or one strong established politician being challenged through the star power of an influential public figure.


Constituency Twitter ID Followers  Party Aggregated retweet engagement Twitter ID Followers Party Aggregated retweet engagement
Asansol Dakshin paulagnimitra1 33k BJP 111098 sayani06 61k AITC 13545
Behala Paschim srabantismile 1.5M BJP 19400 itspcofficial 103k AITC 73132
Chanditala yash_dasgupta 220k BJP 37523 salimdotcomrade 62k CPIM 76453
Habra rahulsinhabjp 73k BJP 40936 jyotipriyamla 3k AITC 14595
Nandigram suvenduwb 60k BJP 148879 mamataofficial 5.3M AITC 385151
Krishnanagar Uttar mukulr_official 129k BJP 68305 koushanimukher1 210k AITC 8609
Tollygunge supriyobabul 317k BJP 226802 aroopbiswasaitc 2k AITC 12074

Table 2 Key constituency-wise battles in West Bengal 2021 elections


Regional spread

We find that overall, AITC and BJP are the two most active parties on Twitter in the state, while INC and CPM trail significantly. In figures divided by state districts, we also see that the locus of most activity online is in the southern part of the state including the legislative seats that are in North and South 24 Parganas, Purba Medinipur, Hooghly, Howrah, and Kolkata. This area is generally also the stronghold of the AITC. The CPM and INC are generally less active on social media with the exception of in certain districts where they have star candidates with significant social media profiles – such as in Pashchim Bardhaman (Asansol) or Hooghly.

Figure 6 Party-wise trends of social media activity across West Bengal districts measured by the total number of tweets made by candidates between Jan 2020 to Apr 2021


There are also some interesting district-wise trends. For instance, in the Alipurduar district, the majority of highly retweeted messages are in Hindi-language tweets, but typed in Roman script, with some code-mixing. In Birbhum, the viral tweets are dominated by a small number of BJP politicians, partly because the overall activity on social media by the other parties is relatively limited. For instance, #KrishokSurokhaAbhijan is the most used hashtag by politicians and party workers in the state. The hashtag has already been debunked as an artificially astroturfed term by IT cell in the state. We see for instance in the Figure 7 that the office of JP Nadda tweeted it out, and that some accounts retweeted it without engaging with the content, such that they copy pasted the name of the individual who sent it to them to forward on.


Figure 7 Examples of tweets containing #KrishokSurokhaAbhijan


Hashtag Wars across West Bengal

One of the interesting facets of the online contest between parties is the recreation of street style sloganeering, crafted into hashtag wars. We see some patterns in how the hashtags in various parts of the state differ, and how they may be reflective of regional distinctions. We grouped the legislative assembly seats into their parliamentary districts and aggregated the most used hashtags by candidates and the ten most viral messages. This method allows us to get a high-level approximation of the overall discourse of communication.

First, we see that in most districts, one or the other party holds a dominant position on social media virality, rather than the spoils split equally. This is typically driven by aggressive tweeting by a small number of highly active social media accounts. There are no statistically significant regional patterns, the BJP accounts are relatively more successful on these metrics in the northern part of the state, north of Birbhum. The INC and CPM are virtually absent, and do not score a single top ten viral tweet in any district. This method does not offer any useful data on either the effectiveness of individual candidates or the party, but rather how effective a small number of social media managers are in that region.

If we take a look at the construction of the viral hashtags, we see a few interesting patterns. First, we see that for TMC Mamata is the key discursive construction for getting votes. Thus several hashtags such as #BanglarGorboMamata, #BanglaNijerMeyekeiChay, and #DidiShowsTheWay are highly viral and focus on Mamata, similar to earlier highly successful hashags including #ChintaNeiDidiAache (don’t worry, Didi will take care of it) and #GhorePheraloDidi, from the first COVID lockdown, when West Bengal was attempting to bring back its migrants. While TMC uses more nativist messaging, pitching such as referring to Mamata as “Nijer Meye” (its own girl), the BJP mainly uses misgovernance.

This is an important distinction – while the BJP does aggressively target Mamata Banerjee on social media outside the state, within the state, the focus of social media engagement is mismanagement and the behavior of the party (#DalitBirodhiTMC, #AarNoiAnnay). Since Mamata herself remains very popular, despite the issues with the cadres, the strategy appears to attack the party rather than the leader. When she is attacked, there is more effort in making viral hashtags that target her nephew, thus #PishiHarcheBanglaJitche, which takes aim at Abhishek Banerjee rather than at Mamata directly.


Language use among top 10 viral tweets in the district Party Share in top 10 viral tweets
Parliamentary district Bangla English Other BJP AITC Frequent Hashtag Frequent Hashtag
Malda 10 0 10 0 #AarNoiGonotontrerHotya #BengalElectricityBillCrisis
Paschim Medinipur 3 7 0 10 #BanglarGorboMamata #BanglaNijerMeyekeiChay
Uttar Dinajpur 2 8 0 10 #DuareSarkar #BanglaNijerMeyekeiChay
Darjeeling 6 2 2 10 0 #PishiHarcheBanglaJitche #EbarBJP
Birbhum 4 6 10 0 #KrishokSurokhaAbhijan #LokkhoSonarBangla
Alipurdar 0 0 10 0 10 #WelcomeAmitShah #ModirSatheBrigade
Bankura 9 1 10 0 #MamatarShahidProhoson #SaveHinduTemples
Hooghly 5 5 10 0 #AtmaNirbharPurviBharat #KrishokSurokhaAbhijan
Purba Bardhaman 2 7 1 1 9 #BanglarGorboMamata #DuareSarkar
Howrah 3 7 0 10 #BanglaNijerMeyekeiChay #DidiShowsTheWay
Murshidabad 2 7 1 10 0 #KrishokSurokhaAbhijan #BanglarGorboMamata
South 24 Parganas 6 4 10 0 #AmphanTakaChorTMC #BJP4Bhangar
Kolkata 3 7 3 7 #AmitShahInBengal #Vote4ShadabKhan
Purulia 2 8 0 10 #BanglarYuboShakti #BanglarGorboMamata
Purba Medinipur 2 8 10 0 #DalitBirodhiTMC #BanglayEbarBJPAsche
Paschim Bardhaman 0 10 1 9 #PoribortonYatra #BanglaNijerMeyekeiChay
Jalpaiguri 0 8 2 0 10 #DuareSarkar #BongodhwaniYatra
Jhargram 7 3 0 10 #BhatBokcheBJP #GhorePheraloDidi
North 24 Parganas 2 8 1 9 #BanglarGorboMamata #BanglaNijerMeyekeiChay
Dakshin Dinajpur 10 0 10 0 #TataTrinamool #BanglarShaktiBJP
Cooch Behar 5 5 3 7 #AarNoiAnnay #PoribortonYatra
Nadia 8 2 10 #PoribortonYatra #TumiAshbeBole

Table 3 District-wise viral hashtags used by politicians from Jan 2020 to Apr 2021

We also see that the amount of online attention that various candidates get differs from district to district. First, we see that Mamata Banerjee is by far the most engaged politician in the state, but that she has relatively more popularity in some districts than others. In general, she is less engaged in the Norther parts of the state with some exceptions, and more in the Southern and Western parts. On the other hand, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are more popular among the Northern districts.

Figure 8 District-wise retweets of Mamata Banerjee, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah by West Bengal Candidates between Jan 2020 and Apr 2021

Star Power

This election in West Bengal has seen more celebrity candidates than in any election in the state before. While celebrity politics has been a significant part of the state’s elections in the last decade, with a range of stars including Mimi Chakraborty, Nusrat Jahan,  Dev, Moonmoon Sen, Tapas Pal, Satabdi Roy, Sandhya Roy, Dev, Mimi Chakraborty, Nusrat Jahan, Deboshree Roy, Chiranjeet Chakraborty – all having contested within the last two state and parliamentary elections, this year a new crop of public influencers, particularly from a younger generation, have been brought into both the BJP and the AITC. A small number of candidates have had affiliations with political parties in the state such as Babul Supriyo, Swapan Dasgupta and Bratya Basu, a significant number were added, including most significantly, cricketers Manoj Tiwari and Ashoke Dinda, and actors Srabanti Chatterjee, Sayantika Banerjee, Paayel Sarkar, and Raj Chakrabarty. Arguably the most significant name to be added to this year’s list – Mithun Chakraborty (who was briefly an AITC Rajya Sabha member) joined the BJP but is not himself standing for elections. Celebrities joined the two parties in waves around February 2021, around the time candidates were declared for the seats.

There are two important patterns with the celebrity engagement in this election. First, we see that every single celebrity candidate is standing from South West Bengal constituencies, which is both where the elections are being hard fought between the AITC and the BJP, but also where the concentration of social media users is relatively higher in the state. Celebrities overwhelmingly contest from general category seats since they tend to be upper caste Hindu candidates. Author Manoranjan Byapari standing for elections from Balagarh on an AITC ticket is the only celebrity candidate from a reserved seat. As has been true for much of the last decades, most celebrities are relatively new to political or social work in the constituencies from which they contest, and may not have an existing support base among social media users in their constituencies. A few celebrities such as actors Anjana Basu and June Malia did not have verifiable accounts online, so they were not included in this analysis.


Celebrity Party Constituency Parliamentary Seat Vocation
Manoj Tiwari AITC Shibpur Howrah Sports
Srabanti Chatterjee BJP Behala Paschim South 24 Parganas Entertainment
Swapan Dasgupta BJP Tarakeswar Hooghly Author
Sayantika Banerjee AITC Bankura Bankura Entertainment
Paayel Sarkar BJP Behala Purba South 24 Parganas Entertainment
Ashoke Dinda BJP Moyna Purba Medinipur Sports
Raj Chakrabarty AITC Barrackpore North 24 Parganas Entertainment
Parno Mittra BJP Baranagar North 24 Parganas Entertainment
Babul Supriyo BJP Tollygunge South 24 Parganas Entertainment
Tanusree Chakraborty BJP Shyampur Howrah Entertainment
Hiran Chatterji BJP Kharagpur Sadar Paschim Medinipur Entertainment
Yash Dasgupta BJP Chanditala Hooghly Entertainment
Koushani Mukherjee AITC Krishnanagar Uttar Nadia Entertainment
Locket Chatterjee BJP Chunchura Hooghly Entertainment
Soham Chakraborty AITC Chandipur Purba Medinipur Entertainment
Saayoni Ghosh AITC Asansol Dakshin Paschim Bardhaman Entertainment
Agnimitra Paul BJP Asansol Dakshin Paschim Bardhaman Fashion
Indranil Sen AITC Chandannagar Hooghly Entertainment
Rudranil Ghosh BJP Bhabanipur Kolkata Entertainment
Kalyan Chaubey BJP Maniktala Kolkata Sports
Bratya Basu AITC Dum Dum North 24 Parganas Author
Manoranjan Byapari AITC Balagarh Hooghly Author
Kanchan Mullick AITC Uttarpara Hooghly Entertainment

Table 4 Celebrity candidates contesting in West Bengal 2021 Legislative Assembly Elections


Engagement with Journalists

Among journalists and public commentators, we see a pattern in that the journalists are preferred by politicians in various parties. There is some overlap between the journalists retweeted by AITC, CPM and INC, but the journalists retweeted by the BJP tend to be almost exclusive retweeted only by BJP members. The main exception to this is actor-politician Parno Mittra, who has on occasion engaged or retweeted content from journalists who typically get more attention from non-BJP politicians. The journalists preferred by BJP politicians in West Bengal are A Ranganathan, Aditya Raj Kaul, Pradip Bhandari, and Shefali Vaidya, whereas on the non BJP side, the journalist who get the most retweeted are Ajoy Dasgupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Seema Chisti, and Mayur Ghosh. Two commentators who are not affiliated with any specific news outlet are Akash Banerjee and Saket Gokhale, both are retweeted significantly by both AITC and CPM politicians.

One interesting pattern is that although the CPM has a marginal social media footprint compared to the other parties, it is by far the most engaged with content from journalists. Almost 60% of all journalist engagements are from CPM members, party leader Mohammed Salim alone accounts for a third of all journalist engagements in our sample, followed by Aishe Ghosh. This pattern has also been seen in other examinations of communist politicians’ engagement with the press.


Figure 9 Engagement of West Bengal politicians with journalists, represented by the total retweet count (x-axis) and the number of retweeting politicians (n) from Jan 2020 to Apr 2021


When we look at the impact of the various journalists, we see that while some local journalists get highly engaged by politicians, including Mayur Ghosh and Ajoy Dasgupta, the journalists whose reach is the most are national figures such as Barka Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Seema Chisti, and Rohini Singh. We see also that individuals who are not traditional journalists also get a lot of political traction – Saket Gokhale consistently appears across various states as one of the most retweeted figures by non-BJP politicians, and has a massive voice despite his work mainly being on social media. The work of satirists is also important — Satish Acharya and Akash Banerjee are very popular among politicians, as is the AisiTaisiDemocracy handle among celebrity influencers. Finally, we also see that Pratik Sinha of AltNews is among the influential journalists among politicians in the state. This is also a pattern of factcheckers increasingly playing an important role in the political news ecosystem.


Figure 10 Interaction of politicians with journalists in West Bengal arranged by the number of retweets made by politicians (x-axis) and the number of retweeting politicians (y-axis)

Engagement with Media Houses

We see in the image below that the media houses preferred by various parties differs. We removed official party channels, and considered the other news sources and the engagement with them. Unlike with individual journalists, who get relatively less engagement with BJP politicians, media houses get a lot more engagement with party members, whereas CPM, which engages more with individual journalists’ Twitter feeds is less invested in media houses.

First, we see that a small number of media houses are almost exclusively engaged by one or another party. So for instance, TV9Bharatvarsh, NewsNationTV, Republic are exclusively engaged by BJP politicians, whereas PARInetwork is exclusively engaged by CPM. We see that NDTV, ANI, and India Today are both engaged by politicians from all parties. In this respect, West Bengal is somewhat unique, since NDTV tends to not be popular among BJP politicians, whereas ANI tends to have less engagement with non-BJP politicians.


Figure 11 Engagement of West Bengal politicians with media houses, represented by the total retweet count (x-axis) and the number of retweeting politicians (n) from Jan 2020 to Apr 2021


Yet, this is not necessarily a trend. In this case, the engagement with traditionally ‘non-BJP’ sources was almost entirely through a single politician – Priyanka Tibrewal, the BJP candidate from a traditionally Left/CPM seat, Entally in Kolkata city. On the other hand, ANI is widely used by several non-BJP politicians in the state. One interesting pattern in West Bengal is the appearance of two tabloids – t2telegraph and calcuttatimes in the political timelines. This is entirely driven by filmstars standing for elections, whereas another anomaly – cricbuzz, Twitter handle for a cricket website, is entirely engaged solely by Manoj Tiwary.


Figure 12 Interaction of politicians with media houses in West Bengal arranged by the number of retweets made by politicians (x-axis) and the number of retweeting politicians (y-axis)


Engagement with Celebrities

The overall most engaged celebrity was Subhashree Ganguly, but we removed her from the sample since she is married to a candidate, and the majority of her engagements are with her husband, Raj Chakraborty who is with the AITC. We see here that in terms of the number of politicians engaging with an influencer, Kunal Kamra has the most engagements, with 9 politicians retweeting him, while Ravi Kishen has 8. However, Kamra routinely engaged multiple times by various politicians, while Ravi Kishen does not get repeat engagements. He is also the only influencer whose retweeted messages are in Hindi.

One pattern of celebrity engagement in West Bengal is that of entertainers engaging each other. While in other states, which entertainer gets engaged how much by candidates is divided on party lines, in West Bengal, the existence of multiple film stars in the political fray has meant that a number of state-based film stars are retweeted across party lines since they are colleagues of other entertainers and celebrities. Thus Bengali celebs like Abir Chaterjee, Arindam Sil, Srijith Mukherji, and Prosenjit Chaterjee all get retweeted by both the BJP and AITC, primarily by their colleagues in the industry. Devdutt Pattnaik remains the most retweeted celebrity, but the number of politicians engaging his content is relatively smaller. One public figure who is not in entertainment but gets significant attention from WB politicians is sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik.


Figure 13 Engagement of West Bengal politicians with influencers, represented by the total retweet count (x-axis) and the number of retweeting politicians (n) from Jan 2020 to Apr 2021


Language Trends

We plotted the Twitter activity of tweets made in different languages by party candidates. All four parties, AITC, BJP, CPIM and INC, follow similar trends and we see that tweeting in English gets significantly higher retweets than tweeting in Bengali or Hindi. Tweeting in Bangla gets higher retweets than Hindi. The size of the colored bubbles in the scatter plot is proportionate to the share of politicians whose majority tweets (over 50% in any single language) are in English, Bangla or Hindi. We see that while the aggregate number of tweets by candidates is higher in English for BJP, CPM and INC, the number of politicians tweeting more in Bangla than English is higher for these parties. Trinamool in that sense is the party that is most likely to tweet in Bangla.

Figure 14 Languages used by politicians of key parties in West Bengal from Jan 2020 till Apr 2021, arranged by the number of tweets made (x-axis) and the total retweet count (y-axis)



In the figure below, we see the timeline of data collection followed for this work. First, the list of all candidates contesting in the 2021 West Bengal Legislative Assembly Elections was collected from Wikipedia [1] along with information about constituencies and parties of affiliation. Next, Google was queried for Twitter handles of the election candidates using GoogleSearch API [2]. A string consisting of the candidate’s name, party, and state along with keyword ‘twitter’ was used to search, and the Twitter handle was extracted from the search result. Post this, the handles were manually verified, and a dataset of 280 candidates and their Twitter handles were curated. Finally, the tweets for these handles were pulled using the Twitter API [3].

For the larger set of nationwide politician, media and influencer intersections, we used NivaDuck. NivaDuck [4] is a scalable Machine Learning-based pipeline used to identify the Twitter handles of a country’s politicians and celebrities based on the account descriptions and the tweets made. On applying NivaDuck for India, we collected Twitter accounts of 36k Indian politicians and 21k Indian celebrities, including journalists, media houses, and influencers. This data was used along with the candidates’ tweets for various analysis carried out in this work.


Figure 15 Timeline of dataset collection


Link to Candidates_data


[1] “2021 West Bengal Legislative Assembly election,” [Online]. Available:
[2] “googlesearch-python 2020.0.2,” [Online]. Available:
[3] “Twitter API Documentation,” [Online]. Available:
[4] A. Panda, A. N. Gonawela, S. Acharyya, D. Mishra, M. Mohapatra, R. Chandrasekaran and J. Pal, “NivaDuck-A Scalable Pipeline to Build a Database of Political Twitter Handles for India and the United States,” International Conference on Social Media and Society, pp. 200-209, 2020.