Political observers may assert that India is making a slow march away from caste politics, but if Google Search trends are to be believed then the electorate is not quite ready to give up on identity politics.
Top searches for BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi include queries on caste, according to data collated by the search giant over the past three months. Google trends also throws up caste as a popular query when it comes to Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal. Interestingly, queries on Kejriwal's caste peaked in December 2013, presumably around the time of the Delhi state elections. The AAP leader belongs to the Baniya community, but he has been careful not to use the caste card in his speeches and campaigns. The strategy fits in perfectly with his party's image as a game changer in Indian politics. Modi, on the other hand, has made subtle references to his OBC background to woo voters in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and also to taunt the Congress.
While caste does not figure as a prominent search query when it comes to Congress scion Rahul Gandhi, the search engine shows pages related to questions on Gandhi's religion — for example, "Is Rahul Gandhi Christian?" or "What is the religion of Rahul Gandhi?".
Urban India continues to account for a large chunk of internet users with about 90 million users. It can be safe to say, thus, that the search queries are coming from a largely educated urban base.
Social strata aside, India is also curious about the personal lives of its leaders. Unlike in the US — where politicians make routine appearances with the wife and children to woo voters — Indians do not give much thought to their leaders' marital status while voting. Nevertheless, Modi's wife, Gandhi's marriage and Kejriwal's family figure as top political Google searches. Modi's wife and Gandhi's girlfriend is the third-most popular search term, while Kejriwal's family comes second, right above resignation.
Congress heir apparent may like to forget his debut on a news channel, but internet users are in no mood to let go of it. "Interview" figures as the top search when it comes to Gandhi, followed by "jokes".
Unsurprisingly, Modi continues to be the most searched politician followed by Kejriwal, PM Manmohan Singh, Gandhi and AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa. With regard to Modi, the interest is more around news on Modi, his rallies and speeches. The term "Namo" is also being searched extensively on Google.
With regard to Kejriwal, Google's search trends points to queries related to his profile – most of it is driven from outside Delhi. His party is also the most-searched regional party followed by Samajwadi Party and Shiv Sena. Also, the much-hyped battle between Kejriwal and Modi is driving searches quite significantly with keywords such as "Modi Kejriwal". Searches on Modi for PM were more than three times compared to that of Rahul Gandhi for PM, revealed Google.