In conversation with Sandeep Phukan.
As per our survey, voters feel the recently announced 10% quota for the poor is a mere election promise, says Congress’ data analytics department head
From Punjab to Puducherry, the Congress has launched ‘Operation Shakti’ in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Praveen Chakravarty, a former Wall Street banker, is overseeing the Congress’s data-driven election strategy. The party’s Data Analytics Department chairperson spoke after the Tamil Nadu launch of the Congress’s Shakti app:
How will Shakti change the functioning of the Congress in the run-up to the 2019 election?
Well, to understand how this will evolve in the 2019 elections, we need to step back and see how Shakti was used in the recent Assembly polls [Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram]. Shakti is the internal platform through which we have connected committed booth-level Congress workers and taken ground feedback for important decisions like feedback on candidates, finding out seats where we are strong to taking opinion on alliances on the ground.
So, will the app be used more to pick candidates?
I want to make it very clear here that feedback on candidates is just one internal input in the process of selection among a variety of other factors. It is not the sole decision point.
Is this the Congress’s answer to BJP’s panna pramukh (page in-charge) who target specific voters in a constituency?
Well, different parties may call it by different names. There is a lot of noise and bluster too about all this.
But this is basically good old door-to-door campaign with the help of some real data and technology. And I don’t think any other party in the country has involved their average workers to this level in the decision-making process. Feedback on candidates, leadership, alliances, marking out seats in terms of strength and so on.
Talking about alliances, in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is all set to go alone. Do you have any data that tells us how the Congress will fare outside the BSP-SP alliance?
In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is facing double anti-incumbency due to non-performance: of the Centre and the State government there. The data also indicate key issues, areas of strength for us. But it would be premature for me to say anything in terms of the number of seats.
But how will the Congress gain from the anti-incumbency?
My data clearly shows that we could spring a surprise in U.P.. We have looked at every seat in detail, every social combination, analysed the sentiment of voters who voted for the BJP in 2014 etc. I think most are underestimating the level of voter disenchantment with the BJP, specifically with certain sections of its core support base. Don’t forget we had a 21% vote share in U.P. in 2009. I can’t say beyond this.
Have you done a data analysis of the seats across the country? If yes, how does it look like for the Opposition in in 2019?
Yes, we have done our data analysis and other surveys across the country. And I don’t see the BJP winning a single State in 2019 of the large States that they won in 2014 — U.P., Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Haryana, Delhi. Which is why I had termed the 2014 BJP victory a “black swan” unrepeatable victory even back in 2014.
In fact, Maharashtra is the angriest State as per our survey. This may come as a surprise to many but this is very evident from the data. For example, 91% of the BJP’s 2014 voters in Maharashtra say this 10% job reservation for the poor is another election ‘jumla’ [false promise].
We have done a survey across top 10 States, mostly from north India, with a large sample size. And more than 72% of the respondents, people who had voted for the BJP, say it is a mere election promise.
What are the key issues for the voters in 2019?
The first key issue is the handling of the economy. Jobs, poor farm incomes and so on. But we didn’t just stop at no jobs. We asked ‘why are there no jobs?’ And majority of the people said it is because of notebandi [demonetisation].
The second layer is what I call dhoka [deceit]. People feel deceived since so many election promises have been made but never fulfilled. And lastly, divisive issues will backfire on the BJP as they are being seen as mere excuses because of lack of delivery.
Published on 23 January, 2019 in The Hindu