Indians have raised ‘a voice for democracy’ online and in the polls in historic vote

Despite the heightened anxieties over the conduct of a free and fair election, India’s democracy rallied in the 2024 election, with voters denying Prime Minister Narendra Modi a landslide win. Much of the fight occurred online as independent journalists and influencers challenged the government narrative echoed on mainstream media.

The night before the 2024 Indian election results were to be announced, Dhruv Rathee released a “final message” YouTube video that was a cry from the heart.

The 29-year-old vlogger and social media activist is a cyber sensation in India, adored by his fans, reviled by his detractors, and acknowledged as one of Time magazine’s 2023 Next Generation Leaders. During the mammoth, six-week election this year, Rathee emerged as a powerful voice of dissent against Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist policies and the democratic backsliding the prime minister spearheaded for a decade.

But on that tense, expectant night, Rathee was not letting democracy die without a fight. And he was rallying his 55 million-odd unique YouTube users to do likewise.

Rathee need not have feared. The next day saw a triumph of Indian democracy, with a bruised and battered opposition, once dismissed as too weak to take on the populist Modi juggernaut, staging a stunning comeback.

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