Political parties will not leave any stone unturned when it comes to designing a focused campaign which is going to be backed by data, numbers and analytics this time. The latest entrant is Rahul Gandhi, President of the Congress Party. The Congress Party was visibly shaken by the Modi juggernaut in the 2014 General Elections when the BJP recorded a landslide victory against them. With this shameful performance of the Congress Party in the general elections, followed some more debacles at the assembly polls and the Congress Party were almost on the verge of being written off.
Come 2019, and the political atmosphere in India has undergone a sea-change as the President of the Congress, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, has started to express his faith in Big Data analytics for changing his party’s fortunes in the upcoming 2019 General Elections. Gandhi has begun analyzing figures that have been compiled by the analytic department of the party over the last five years on vote shares, seat, shifting nature of voting patterns etc to understand how the voters are going to behave in the forthcoming elections. This insight is going to help him come up with an effective strategy to counter the BJP onslaught.
Using the power of Big Data is not something which is completely new in the political arena. This has been done previously by the BJP in 2014 when they used these inputs to plan their election campaign. The project was aimed at converting the voters into volunteers and then volunteers into voters. Incidentally, the first major use of Big Data can be seen during the US Presidential Elections which brought Barack Obama to power. This campaign was based upon an analysis of every possible detail about the voters like their behavioral patterns, sentiments, and any other factor which could influence their voting behavior. The campaign had used data collected from the television, Internet, social media, and involved the participation of software programmers, statisticians, predictive modelers etc.
In the same way today, the Congress is planning to make use of the Big Data analytics to prepare for the elections in 2019. This is perhaps a conscious attempt to try out something innovative following the huge defeat in the last general elections which left them red-faced. This is why the party launched a new department the Data Analytics Department in February 2018.
New reports suggest that this department established by the Congress party has been busy compiling figures. The Chairperson is Praveen Chakravarty who proudly declares that this department is the first of its kind to be launched by any political party as it is solely dedicated to analytics. So, according to Chakravarty, the approach of the party towards data is going to be based on “pure science”. He stresses that data collected by the department is going to be used by them for decision making all the time, and not simply before or after an election.
According to the Wharton School alumnus, this data is going to be used by the Congress for determining which candidates are suitable for being given election tickets, which are the parties that Congress should be allying with, what the party’s stand should be, and strategizing effective ways to convince voters. This decision to consolidate the analytics department of the party seems to be a reaction to an incident in the recent past when Christopher Wylie claimed that Cambridge Analytica had been actively working in India for the Congress. This data analytical firm was convicted of data breaches and it was argued by Wylie that the Congress party has used its services for some regional elections in the country. However, Chakravarty is prudent and cautious; he claims that the department will be dealing with public data online and it will use private data only if needed with consent. He also argued that there were no instances of breach in the past and neither will there be any in the future.
Another significant development has been the visit by the Congress President to the United States last year to meet up with important AI personalities and experts in the analytics field. He even conducted meetings with many noted think-tanks in the Silicon Valley. Like the Congress Party, even the BJP had put in a lot of funds for hiring manpower for data analysis, social media marketing and technological innovations in the run-up to the 2019 elections. The leader of their IT teams Arvind Gupta said that they have used data and technologies for converting the general population into volunteers and the latter into voters. Like any regular company, the BJP IT department had used data for understanding trends, selecting markets properly and running the overall election campaign.
The Reasons For Using Big Data Analytics Are Many And Some Of These Are Described Here:
- There will always be a certain percentage of citizens who will never vote and it is the aim of election campaigners today to get these people to cast their votes. So, political parties are using aggressive digital engagement plans to improve voter numbers.
- Such analytical departments can help significantly in designing election campaigns which are focused Political parties want to know their voters well and the campaign planners will make campaigns focused on satisfying voter interests.
- Big Data will also help parties to dig out and understand the many problems which are being faced by most citizens. So, data analysis can tell you which problem is the most pressing and parties can design their campaign around this.
- Big Data will also help the parties to understand the demographic patterns in different states, economic and social density in rural and urban area, analyze voting patterns from previous elections etc.
- On a worldwide scale, even the media and TV channels have started using data analytics to predict election winners in advance. For instance, the CNN-IBN had collaborated with Microsoft powered data analytics to track US Presidential elections. India is certainly not going to stay behind in this race.