While Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal and Sonia Gandhi hop from rally to rally for their frenzied campaigns, there is an equally frenzied excitement about the elections on the Internet – and not just among party propagandists and trolls.

Several young people have launched non-partisan online forums to spread awareness about candidates and political issues among voters. Some organise and moderate online interactions between politicians and citizens, some allow you to create report cards for your political representatives and some create citizen-generated manifestos. What characterises them is that they are all politically neutral, and are not affiliated with any party.

“We’re trying to reach out to young, urbane Indians who have often been accused of not engaging with politics,” said Ankur Garg, co-founder of iForIndia, an online forum that gets citizens to rate politicians’ performance.

This group of Indians who have access to the internet may seem limited, but their influence may be greater than one would assume. An April 2013 study by IRIS Knowledge Foundation and the Internet and Mobile Association of India claimed that in this general election, social media is likely to have a “high impact” on 160 out of 543 constituencies.

Here are some of the online initiatives that are hoping to have an impression on voters this election. 

AskHow India
“Politicians make a lot of claims in their manifestos, but they don’t really talk about how they intend to reduce corruption, improve education or solve other problems,” said 43-year-old engineer Yogesh Upadhyaya, who started AskHow India in November 2013 to counter the mudslinging that passes for much political discourse in India. Upadhyaya has several years of experience in finance and even ran his own software product company, and wanted to see more problem-solving in the political arena.

The AskHow India website – which, for now, is a project aimed specifically at the 2014 general election – provides answers to several such "how" questions through simple infographic slides and videos put together by experts. Upadhyaya arrived at these questions by travelling across the country last year and speaking to citizens about the issues that concern them. Some of the questions covered are “How can rising prices be controlled?”, “How can life in cities be made better?” and “How can Parliament function better?”

Upadhyaya hopes this information will prompt users to ask these questions of politicians, so that they can evaluate responses and solutions given by different parties. The AskHow website allows users to send in their questions, which Upadhyaya’s team will convey to different politicians through a tie-up with online forum GrassRoute. “I want the ‘how’ questions to spread like memes, with the media consistently asking them to our leaders and citizens asking the questions at political rallies,” said Upadhyaya.

Launched in August 2013, iForIndia is an online forum for citizens to rate the performances of their legislators, MPs, chief ministers and, as an aggregate of all of these, even the prime minister. The site already has 25,000 registered users who are rating political representatives across the country on parameters that are broadly classified under basic needs, governance and administration, growth and progress and reputation.

“These are real-time report cards that keep changing as more and more people participate in rating,” said Ankur Garg, engineer and former Microsoft India employee who co-founded iForIndia with Tarun Jain. While iForIndia also organises Twitter and Google Hangout interactions between citizens and politicians, its focus is on the rating and report cards.

The website is available in eight regional languages and Garg claims they have managed to rate 98% of India's MPs so far. “This process of rating will be relevant after the election as well,” said Garg.

GrassRoute India
Started in June 2013 by Deepa Kumar, a 23-year-old political science graduate from Mumbai, GrassRoute attempts to help voters and political representatives engage with each other through moderated Twitter discussions and group video conferences. At times, GrassRoute invites politicians for interactions based on issues in the news. Other time, politicians approach the forum themselves if they want to reach out to citizens.

“Most politicians are forthcoming because they too want neutral, meaningful platforms to engage with voters,” said Kumar, who worked as an assistant with Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar for 11 months before launching GrassRoute. Kumar and her team have managed to get representatives from most major parties so far, but have not had much luck with the Bharatiya Janata Party. “The BJP is open to such interactions only after the election,” she said.

After the election, GrassRoute plans to reach out to a wider, off-line audience, particularly in rural areas, by connecting them with their local representatives through mobile applications and interactive voice response technology.

Youth Ki Awaaz
Founded in 2008, Youth Ki Awaaz is an online publication for young Indians to voice their views on various issues through articles and essays. The website gets 1.5 million views a month, so the founders have consciously used it to launch campaigns specifically for this election.

Their biggest campaign has been the unManifesto, a “people’s youth manifesto” that YKA compiled with the help of 42 non-profit organisations, which spoke to young people across 20 states for the past year to collect more than 60,000 suggestions. “It was largely an offline campaign, and we made sure to include the interests of all kinds of groups – urban, rural, dalit, tribal, queer and even sex workers,” said Anshul Tewari, founder and editor-in-chief of YKA.

The unManifesto has been presented to nearly 100 politicians from all the major national and regional parties, of which “AAP and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have been most forthcoming”, said Tewari.

YKA’s Youth Elect campaign is focused on generating awareness about the election through politics-centred articles on different issues and Google Hangouts with political experts every ten days. “Editorially, we ensure that we are completely non-partisan,” said Tewari.