Anger – yes rising anger – against Bharatiya Janata Party governments in India’s heartland literally fueled the Congress Party’s victory in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, setting the stage for an even bigger showdown with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in general elections next year.
It can now be told that the Data Analytics Department (DAD) of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) led by banker-cum-politician Praveen Chakravarty spent months studying anger and angst, disillusionment and hopelessness in poll bound states through a series of mega surveys, collated the findings and advised Rahul Gandhi how to exploit it for electoral gains.
Speaking to New Delhi Television (NDTV) as soon as results were declared, Chakravarty, 45, revealed that the Anger Index prepared by his team turned out to be the secret weapon in the hands of a resurgent Congress, which brought down as many as three BJP regimes at one go.
“We deployed hundreds of workers on the ground. They fanned out in all directions to feel the pulse of the people and hear their stories of despair and broken promises. The respondents poured their hearts out helping us to map their anger and frustration”, Chakravarty said disclosing minute details for the first time.
“We were able to identify problems which ordinary people wanted fixed immediately – their demand varied from one area to another. We knew exactly where the shoe pinched. There was a strong sense of betrayal. We knew what they wanted to hear from Congress leaders as electioneering picked up.”
Using big data
Gandhi, keen to run the Congress’ poll campaign along corporate lines, handpicked Chakravarty, an alumnus of Birla Institute of Science and Technology in Pilani and Wharton School, Philadelphia, for the job and announced on twitter that DAD would “effectively use Big Data”. He evidently learnt a lesson from the BJP’s harnessing of technology and social media in 2014 to trounce the Congress.
“We found that in Madhya Pradesh the issue of youth disenchantment, joblessness and Dalit atrocities is the highest. In Rajasthan, agrarian distress and rising prices come out as the pressing issues. In Chhattisgarh, tribal angst and social conflicts are the most imp¬ortant. One common voter sentiment across the country is betrayal of promise. Voters feel badly let down by BJP governments”, Chakravarty told Al Arabiya English in an exclusive interview.
Chakravarty has proved to be a boon for India’s oldest party, which was routed by the BJP in the national elections in 2014 and has been losing state after state to the right-wing party since then. Its push back has now begun in right earnest with victories in three key states a few months before the general elections.
Chakravarty is an old Congress hand, though. He quit BNP Paribas in 2010 to join former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government’s Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) project. Earlier he worked for technology front-runners like Microsoft and IBM before turning into a political economist.