Shaping Democracy: Political Consulting in the Heart of Indian Elections with Animesh Mishra

2024 marks a pivotal year in global democracy, where the very essence of governance hangs in the balance. In a new instalment of Human Lab, we delve into the nexus of governance and elections, illuminating how technology fundamentally alters the landscape of leadership selection and party ascension. For instance, using social media platforms for campaigning and using data analytics for voter targeting has revolutionised how political parties operate and ascend to power.

Animesh Mishra unveils the intersection between democracy and technology in India, painting a vivid picture of the shifting electoral dynamics. Within this landscape, a burgeoning political consulting industry emerges, wielding technology and data as its arsenal to pursue votes. These consultants are crucial in shaping campaign strategies, leveraging data to target specific voter demographics, and using technology to disseminate campaign messages effectively.

Politics, at its core, is a narrative of humanity. While the ideologies of political entities evolve, voters’ expectations endure. This paradigm shift fosters the ascent of the political consulting sector—comprised of campaign managers and strategists—operating in the shadows, unchecked by democratic oversight.

From the realms of electoral financing to the realms of propaganda, India finds itself embroiled in a contentious discourse on the very nature of democracy. The commodification of political processes and the proliferation of misinformation have only stoked the flames further. In this era where political parties morph into brands and elections into products, armed with vast troves of voter data, the question looms large: who bears the burden of ensuring a fair democracy?

Amidst a landscape devoid of robust data privacy regulations, the responsibility falls into a precarious balance. Will it be the political juggernauts intoxicated by power and sway? Or the unregulated political consultants armed with troves of sensitive data? Perhaps it rests ultimately upon the shoulders of the citizens themselves—the voters—who willingly share data across the internet, oblivious to the consequences of their actions.

Produced by Global Indian Series for the Global Indian Network.
Script by Rajan Nazran
original idea: Rajan Nazran

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About Animesh Mishra

Animesh Mishra is a Doctoral Research Scholar at the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi(DU). He is a recipient of a Junior Research Fellowship awarded by the University Grants Commission of India. His ongoing research focuses on the emerging political consulting industry in India and the changing electoral campaigns in the country. He examines these topics through the lens of two recently conducted General Elections in India (2014 & 2019), studying the role of technology and data in these elections and how they have influenced the strategies of political parties. 

Animesh Mishra is navigating the intersection of Elections, Democracy and Technology in India. His field study of campaign shifts with on-ground exploration and over social media gives detailed nuances of the Changing Electoral landscape in India and its spillover effects on its democratic character. He is also engaged with several non-government organisations (NGOs) and activities that support democracy, increase voter awareness and promote youth in politics.

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