“A new era in electioneering is here that promises to change the way elections are fought from here on out, analysts say. Gray-haired political strategists who relied on hunches and intuitions to gauge complex demographics of caste, religion, community and localities are on the way out. In their place are quants, programmers and data scientists“~ TechEdge, a CNBC Special Report quoted.
What US President, Obama did in 2012 elections, BJP and Congress did the same in 2014 elections in India- but on a smaller scale. The election results have thoroughly justified the contagious slogan doing rounds for months- “Abki Baar Modi Sarkar”, thanks to precise analysis. It is amazing to see how analytics has come out from the research labs. Today analytics is instrumental in monitoring real-time data.
Voters’ emotions, reactions, sentiments and concerns vary with states and constituencies. It is this difference that has been scrutinized and put under a microscope to evaluate the right move. Arvind Gupta, the man behind Narendra Modi’s 3.67 million Twitter followers and 12 million likes on Facebook says “We have developed our own customized digital tools based on both commissioned and open source data that puts us in direct touch with voters”. With these strategies coupled with digital events like “Chai pe Charcha” (Talk over Tea) helped young voters get connected to political leader.
The most frequent way of using analytics in politics is by merging two sets of data available in public domain- the historic voting pattern that is now accessible at all booth level in various states, and voter roll which are made available online by many state election commissions. The harmonious union of these two sets of data allows candidates to “identify the pocket boroughs of their party, the booths unlikely to elect them and the ones that could go either way, or the swing booths” (The Economic Times). The thorough analysis of the voter roll lets them decide whether to invest time and effort on a particular individual or not, and also how much! The surnames are analysed. This coupled with conventional knowledge about religions and caste propels this science to determine which party the voter is likely to cast his vote in comparison to others.
The Delhi war room of BJP took to colour-coded voter rolls to each candidate. Based on various factors along with local intelligence, colours like red, green and yellow determined the probability of a candidate to cast his vote for the party. When the voter comes face-to-face with a candidate, a psychological assessment leads to determining the colour code or may be a change in the colour code. In reference to this, the IT cell chief Arvind Gupta mentions “Data gives you the most dispassionate view, but human intelligence is always more reliable than system intelligence“.
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The main aim was to reach out to voters. BJP took to one of the most advanced techniques in reaching out to the mass. The moment you visit a BJP website, a cookie (a small bit of software) gets planted on your computer. This cookie now sits and keeps tracking your browsing pattern even after you have shut down the website and moved ahead. This works in sync with an algorithm that builds a demographic profile according to your browsing pattern. For instance, if you move out of the BJP website and visit a website for bikes followed by a search on jobs, the algorithm will make the inference that you are a young male from a particular constituency, say Delhi, who is currently on a job hunt. What happens next is when you visit a job searching portal like Naukri.com, this system pops up a contextual ad for you like “jobs in Delhi”. The BJP banner which is just below the results will tell you “There are no Jobs in Delhi. India deserves better”. Thus, on the basis of your digital profile stored on the BJP servers, a customized message is sent your way via sms or email everytime contact information and digital profile ties the knot in the backend.
The present political scenario reminds largely of the Obama campaign in 2012 with its headquarters located in Chicago. Competing for the world’s most powerful job is not easy, and it is evident given the eleventh hour execution of various campaign tactics. The idea of convincing voters is old, but the techniques have refined with years. Attempting to swing the first time voters can take a toll on the voting results, but Obama campaign just got their moves exactly right by “breaking ground for election cycles to come by applying an advanced form of predictive analytics that pinpoints rare gems: truly persuadable voters. This is the new microcosmic battleground” (The Real Story Behind Obama’s Election Victory by Eric Seigel). The Obama campaign defied all myths about “swing voters” and predicted if every voter can be persuaded via campaign contact.
The raw truth of this election is that almost 100 million new young voters got added to India’s electorate. This group of voters live online. Their lives revolve around smartphones. As R. Sukumar, Editor at Mint newspaper quotes “This election is about an [inspired], young, urbanizing and educated citizenry who are high on optimism, have tasted the fruits of economic buoyancy, are wired by smartphones and internet and are eager to get things rolling on the ground“.
Once the election data used to be scattered and impossible to break through. With big data analytics, now refining this data and strategizing the next campaign move has become possible as well as the need of the hour! The 2014 election where more than 930,000 polling booths and 1.7 million voting machines were used, big data analytics played the role of a catalyst in deciding the vote results. “Modi is perhaps one of the most tech-savvy politicians in the world and certainly the most active in India“, Amit Sheth, Professor, Wright State University’s Knowledge Computing Center, Ohio, opined.
It can be neatly summarized :
“The era of big data in Indian politics has arrived”~ J.Ramachandra, CEO of Gramener