The million dollar question on every Indian’s mind is “Who will win the General Elections in 2019?” Political parties are leaving no stone unturned to design a focussed election campaign backed by numbers, data and analytics. The latest to join the bandwagon is Rahul Gandhi.  The Congress, after facing a bitter defeat in the last Lok Sabha elections wants to play its cards right this time.  The party has established a dedicated Analytics cell to figure out make crucial decisions like distribution of election tickets, possible alliance, election campaign strategy etc.

Harnessing the power of Big Data is not new for political parties. Even in the elections in 2014, the BJP had used Big Data to design its election campaign. The project involved turning voters into volunteers and volunteers to voters. This was still on a smaller scale.

The first time Big Data was used for an election campaign, it was by erstwhile US President, Barack Obama, back in 2012. The scale of the campaign was a huge and involved analysis of every detail of the prospective voters including their sentiments, behavioural pattern, and everything that could impact their voting preferences. The campaign leveraged data from social media, web, TV, mobile, tele-calling etc. The campaign involved statistician, predictive modellers, software programmes. The information aggregated using multiple data sets was integrated under a common platform, diced, sliced and analysed to the minutest detail.

Let us see how big politicians like Barack Obama, Prime Minister Modi and US President Donald trump benefitted out of Big Data:

  • Every country has a large number of citizens who do not vote. One very big aim of these election campaigns was to get those voters as well as the first time voters to come out to vote. Democracies have seen increased success due to the aggressive digital engagement strategies by various political parties.
  • These companies have helped to design election campaigns that are focussed and not generic. Just like organisations, political parties aim to know their voters inside out. This will help the campaign managers to create campaigns keeping interests in their mind.
  • Big data helps in digging and understanding the issues faced by the majority of the people in the country. Data analysis identifies what problem tops the list and aims at designing a campaign around it. For eg: lack of jobs, female education, safety/security of women and children, sanitation issues etc. The message is then created to address the majority of the electorate.
  • Data analytics also help political parties to study the demographic pattern of states, the social and economic density of rural and urban locations, track distribution of constituencies across the country, analyse voting patterns in past elections as well as do efficient polling booth management.
  • On a global level, even TV channels have adopted data analytics in a race to predict the winners beforehand. For eg: CNN-IBN got together with Microsoft harnessed data analytics to track the US Presidential elections. The same trend can be expected in India as well, where TV channels will be using analytics to predict election outcome.

Conclusion: Data will be a guiding light for the political battle in India

We can safely assume that the times where political experts used their gut instinct to predict the election outcome is gone. Big data and improvement in computing technology have become a crucial part of election campaigns. Social media has become a very convenient way for politicians to connect with the masses, which in turn gives rise to a lot of data being stored at various levels. US President Donald Trump has 52.6 million followers on Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has 43 million followers while Rahul Gandhi has around 8 million. We are sure in times to come many eminent politicians and political parties will make active use of digital media and data analytics to target their election campaign.

So who wins the election or digital battle? Well, only time will tell or let’s say 2019 will tell!