This is the Brahmastra Rahul Gandhi will hurl at PM Modi
Cambridge Analytica analyses data of consumers — the trail of choices they leave online — to profile them so that politicians can craft appropriate message.
Cambridge Analytica analyses internet data of consumers—the trail of choices they leave online on search engines, email and shopping websites—to profile them so that political leaders can craft appropriate messaging that target specific groups or communities of voters in specific places.
When the news broke during the last Lok Sabha election campaign that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was targeting social media profiles, many political pundits had made light of the issue, assuming that India's largely rural voters were immune to such newfangled tactics. But the stunning victory of the BJP confirmed that internet played a great role in identifying voters groups and then targeting them with specific messages.
The BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are known for gargantuan social media campaigns. The old strategies and tactics of the opposition are seen to be ineffective in the face of smart online campaigns.
According to the report, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix was expected to meet several opposition leaders in July this year to design electoral strategy for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the next Lok Sabha elections.
After Trump's victory and the reports that Cambridge Analytica also influenced the Brexit vote, several political parties all over the world are in touch with the company. The impression is if Trump, who was initially dismissed as a frivolous candidate, could win by targeting the right voter segments with right messages, so can others.
Trump's wooing of Hindu immigrants even though he had adopted a tough stand against foreign workers is said to be based on Big Data suggesting Hindu voters could swing results in key states. "Based on our brainstorming sessions, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix rolled out a series of suggestions. Trump wooing Indian voters with an advertisement in Hindi, his daughter-in-law Lara Yunaska Trump celebrating Diwali at a Hindu temple in the key swing state of Virginia, and Trump saying, “The Indian and Hindu community will have a true friend in the White House”, were all part of a strategy to reach out to the Indian-American community," wrote Amrish Tyagi in a blog on ET last year. Tyagi, son of JDU leader KC Tyagi, worked with Cambridge Analytica for the Donald Trump campaign.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's smartly designed online campaigns have been unbeatable so far. The BJP's unabated winning spree after the last Lok Sabha elections has rattled the opposition and confused the political pundits. PM Modi's messaging and BJP chief Amit Shah's electoral engineering are seen to be based on shrewd analysis of voter aspirations. So far, opposition parties have been out of sync with the emerging trends. But with Cambridge Analytica by their side, they might be hoping to counter PM Modi. Will Rahul Gandhi become the Donald Trump of India by defeating Modi? Time and 'data' will tell.
(This article has been updated on 22 March 2018, it was earlier published on 9 October 2017)