Politics and sentiment have a deep relation. Only the leaders who can feel and understand the pulse of the people can effectively become better guides for their country. While public debates and speeches were and are still the most effective way for politicians of a country to have a tête-à-tête with audiences, thanks to advancements in information technology, establishing meaningful relationships with the audience has taken new forms and mediums. Today, politicians can understand the mood of their voter base via social media platforms, online campaigns and ‘Sentiment Analysis’ via neatly and comprehensively prepared surveys.
If we are to focus our attention to the world’s biggest democracy aka India, the above scenario has special relevance. In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections in the country, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC) utilised data science in various ways to gauge public perception of their respective party’s ideologies and performance.
The BJP roped in techie and entrepreneur Arvind Gupta as its digital campaign manager. Using a host of data science from national and international surveys, Gupta put forth an electoral campaign that factored in normal and critical time periods during which campaigning would yield the maximum results. ‘Key words’ spoken by leaders and public were paired against each other to see the level of coherence and connectivity. The higher the coherence, the better it was for the party to establish a firm footing. The trick, Gupta says, was to identify the issues that people mostly wanted to talk about and then gather data relevant to those issues. The top leadership could then communicate their party’s agenda based on the issues at rallies and via advertisements and woo the voter base to vote for them.
Key details such as the Internet Penetration rate, mobile subscriber base, electricity penetration rate amongst others were researched, catalogued and entered into a neat system wherein BJP leaders could connect with their voter base. Use of hashtags and viral videos disseminated at the right place at the right time to the right audience were key to the BJP’s success. For the voters who were not or could not be connected to via these means, face to face communication was adopted.
Given such a premise, it was a big moment when the BJP won 282 out of 543 seats in the elections, an absolute majority. The party has employed data science this time to gain a special place in people’s hearts. But can it set another absolute win in its second innings? That’s a question that we’ll have to patiently wait for.