An outsourcing overdrive has taken over the Delhi poll scenario as candidates pressed for time by the shortened campaign period have taken a leaf out of Narendra Modi’s election book to hire specialists to keep them a step ahead of their rivals.
These election micromanagers build war rooms for every candidate and shadow him everywhere to get the right frame — all for a fee. They customise regional songs for every section of voters, blast text messages to lakhs of people in a matter of minutes or even slyly provide “intelligence” on rival candidates.
“We have one or two persons always moving around with the candidate with iPads. They click pictures, immediately send them back to the war room, the team there give them captions and post them on Facebook and Twitter. The other team then monitors the feedback,” said Rishu Monga, founder of Creativizt Communications.
Monga’s team is handling the campaign of two candidates this Delhi election.
“We have been in the business for 15 years but we have started working on campaigns over the past one year. It became very popular since Modi used a professional agency for his campaigns.”
“A two-month campaign will cost Rs. 10 lakh. But this time, we are racing against time.”
There are enterprises of all sizes helping candidates, who also have to make sure the expenses don’t exceed the `28 lakh ceiling.
These specialists provide much more than the tools to grab eyeballs on social media.
Bikes are available for Rs. 500 each for a four-hour yatra. Rickshawwalas can be hired for the same price. Women and youngsters can be arranged for a rally at anything between Rs. 200 and Rs. 500 per head.
“I was contacted by these agencies immediately after I filed my nomination. But I am not taking their help as I cannot afford them,” said Pratyush Kanth, the Congress candidate for Kirari.
The electionawaaz.org provides assistance in identification of voters, grooming and surveys. They identify positive, negative and neutral voters and then reach out to them to make them aware of their client.
“If there are two lakh voters in a constituency, 60% of them will vote. We have told the candidate to be prepared for 70% turnout this time which equals to 1.4 lakh. We have seen that the winning candidate got 50% votes in that constituency. So the candidate will have to get at least 70,000 votes.
In that case, the candidate will have to reach out to at least 90,000 people in his constituency to ensure enough positive votes,” said JP Singh, the Gurgaon-based managing director of electionawaaz.org.
He has a grooming team that comprises retired defence officials, double post-graduates and even a former vice-chancellor of a university. “Waving at the crowd is the most stupid thing to do. We ask them to be humble,” he said.
The agencies see an opportunity in the lack of time for an elaborate campaign for the February 7 poll.
“The candidates want to reach out to the maximum number of people. So we provide them facilities like voice call blast or bulk SMS service. Their recorded calls can reach five to 10 lakh people within a few minutes. No hardware required. We do it through a server provided by the service provider,” said Anil Jain, marketing manager at the Thiruvananthapuram-based SMS Achariya.
The agency currently has eight candidates as clients, charging 12 paisa for each SMS and 20 paisa for every call. With 1.3 crore voters and 4.2 crore mobile phones in the city, according to census 2011 data, the method surely does wonders for a candidate.