NRI techie initiates change in Indian political system

February, 2005
The times are changing, indeed! The people of India who were used to being abused by day and night loudspeakers during election time, got to hear prime minister calling on their phones and trying to persuade them to vote for his party instead. Last elections saw prolific usage of SMS and TeleNetworks by politicians to reach their voters. Looks like generation X has started to have some influence on Khadi clad netas.

However, this is nothing when compared to what Viplav Communications is preparing politicians for the next elections. The company founded a by former NRI Pallav, 26 is leading a silent revolution in Indian political system. The company pioneered the concept of Voter Relationship Management in India, a system based on behavioral science and latest corporate management practices to manage the expectations of voters in the same way a multinational company would. Such practices are well established in the other developed democracies. The second term victory of President Bush is largely attributed to this organized campaign to manage the voters in crucial American states. Viplav had to work extra hard, working at grass root level to tailor the concept for Indian conditions.

The company found that the political parties have a huge work force of party workers but unfortunately they are too unorganized to be very useful. The absence of transparency and accountability leads to corruption in the system. The MP/MLAs lose touch of their constituencies and grass root workers during their time and power and ultimately pay for that in the next elections. We call the effect anti-incumbency. The statistics ... are appalling: as many as 120 seats in parliament flip-flop year after year by a small margin of 3.5%. The elections are not being decided by traditional vote bank, but by small number of voters who start resenting the leader in power for his apathy. The company identifies these voters by poll booth level analysis of voters and actively cultivates loyalty to the leader by bridging the gap between leader and people. In nut shell, Viplav communications works as mouth and ears of the elected representatives for the duration of his stay in power. Using the new system the leader can not only reduce the dependence on the party workers and stay in direct touch with the voters but also incorporate methods for self-evaluation.

The early years of the company were tough, not only the idea was rejected at the outset by the discouragement fraternity but it was greeted with wide-spread skepticism in the political circles. It took a year of hard work and persistence to get the lucky break when the new age politician Jyotiraditya Scindia gave it a try and there has been no looking back since then. The great experience in last election encouraged others to follow and now company has more than a dozen customers, including Jyotiraditya Scindia from Guna constituency, former cricketer Navajot Sigh Sidhu from Amritsar and Ashok Ahuja and Rohit Machandani from Delhi constituencies.

It is a novel concept; definitely so for the Indian politicians. However the founder of the company Pallav, an IIT Kanpur graduate with a degree in electronics engineering looks at it in a different way: "The problem with the existing network of party workers is that the information which flows through this massive network gets distorted by the time it reaches the top as a result even the most well meaning leaders are helpless because of lack of information. It is like a typical signal processing problem prevalent in all communication systems; there are always opportunities in conveying information with maximum accuracy and least distortion". It is surprising how the same problem could be understood in such diverse ways!

In their own words:

Jyotiraditya Sindia, (MP Guna): "They represent and assist you. They tell you the areas to focus on and the targets. It enables you to serve the community better. Also one gets a chance to improve oneself".

Navajot Singh Sidhu, (M.P. Amritsar): "There are times when the immediate attention of an MPs is needed to solve a problem faced by his voters, but he doesn't come to know of that till it is too late. Management companies are handy in such contingencies"

Vijendra Singh (MP Aligarh) "They told me that people working for me had left a bad impression on voters mind. The voters also did not like that I vacated the Iglas Assembly seat after my election to Lok Sabha. Pandey extensively toured the constituency and told me that my wife would lose."

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-Ambarish Gupta

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The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.

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