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In India, Facebook’s WhatsApp Plays Central Role in Elections

MANGALORE, India — Waving a giant saffron flag, Pranav Bhat last week joined a political rally for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India’s ruling party here in this sweltering port city on the southwest coast.Milling on a vast field with his college buddies, Mr. Bhat, 18, cheered for Mr. Modi and his Hindu-oriented Bharatiya Janata Party, which was trying to wrest control of Karnataka state from the more secular Indian National Congress in legislative elections.Yet the most intense political campaigning was not taking place on the streets. Instead, the action was happening on WhatsApp, a messaging service owned by Facebook that has about 250 million users in…

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