With the onset of the pandemic, Indian political parties are looking for alternative ways of mobilisation – a new kind of politics can be seen in the offing. Covid-19 has entrenched some of the key political trends we were already witnessing in the pre-pandemic era – a centralisation of power, heightened degree of social polarisation and atrophy of accountability institutions. Likewise, the pandemic has pushed the consolidation of previously apparent trends in political mobilisation. Since 2014, we have seen a significant shift towards digitisation of political campaign strategies in India, political marketing strategies in India, be it on Facebook, Twitter or perhaps most consequentially WhatsApp. And now, the pandemic is pushing all parties further in the direction.
The true essence of going digital was first comprehended by the Bharatiya Janata Party. BJP has an enormous digital advantage over its rivals, both national and regional. The BJP has embraced technology and digital political campaign strategies in India in a manner no other party has. The political party can use its control of the central government, resource advantage, and its organisation to further build upon this technological advantage. This revolution has also spawned a generation of entrepreneurs or czar political managers. We are already witnessing the rise of the ‘campaign consultant,’ who is a ubiquitous character in most Western democracies and is apparent in India too — albeit with a lag. The new digital politics will accelerate the creation of this relatively new career pathway but could also lead to, frankly, a lot of charlatans flooding the space. It is easy, with the kinds of big data available today, to develop a kind of data-driven political campaign in India that is totally devoid of history, politics, culture, and context. Outcomes of a political campaign can take unexpected and unwanted turns if conventional political assumptions are outdated or simply out-of-touch.
However, this is not to say traditional campaigning is on death kneel; the combination of economic dislocation caused by the pandemic and the communal polarisation simmering beneath the surface means that one cannot write off the possibility of large mass gatherings in India. The balance of digital and physical might tilt towards the former, but no-one can dismiss the importance of the latter. At the end of the day, many parties and politicians in India derive authority from street power. India is looking at a spectrum of activity – from digital to physical. In the political domain, India is moving toward the former, but we should not ignore the latter because there are still barriers to digital communications. There is a tremendous potential to misuse digital platforms, which could spark a backlash.
We also cannot afford to get carried away with the allure of ‘techno-governance’. The Government of India has rolled out many welfare schemes and you creating an elaborate dashboard to track toilet construction is necessarily not the same as tracking modern sanitation practices. Digital mode eliminates the behavioural dimension to any problem, so perhaps, we are entering an era where technology is necessary, but ultimately insufficient for good governance.
Technology can be an enabler or force multiplier, but ultimately it depends on the quality of the product you have in political marketing strategies in India. In the realm of electoral politics, BJP has leveraged technology in service of a product — Modi, a very popular product. But technology has also not saved the BJP in states like Rajasthan or Chhattisgarh, where the electorate did not view the product favourably. If technology were the determining factor, the BJP would not have lost the West Bengal state elections in 2021.
NCSofttech is a leading agency specialising in political campaign in India. We use technology-driven strategic decisions to be able to establish strong communications with the masses. At NCSofttech, we build political parties in a way it is as captivating as any other popular brand in the market, as long as it sends the correct message. It’s not just winning an electoral process but creating a brand image that will take the political party a long way.