Before battle for ballot, it is a war for your data among Punjab’s political parties | punjab$top | Hindustan Times
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Before battle for ballot, it is a war for your data among Punjab’s political parties

punjab Updated: Nov 30, 2016 11:02 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times
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The Congress has promised free smartphones, loan waiver and jobs. (HT Photo)

Before the battle for the ballot, political parties in Punjab are fighting a war for your data. While the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has captured voter details through its various sops and welfare schemes, including the vote-catching atta-dal scheme which covers half of state’s population, an intense data war is now on between the two main opposition parties, the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Every campaign designed by Congress poll strategist Prashant Kishor around state party chief Captain Amarinder Singh is aimed at data compilation. Not to forget, the mandatory requirement for each ticket aspirant of the Congress to furnish details of two voters per booth.

The intent behind the data war -- capturing names, phone numbers, email IDs -- is to bombard voters with messages, calls and social media posts on poll promises, memes and spoofs on other parties, besides surveys and feedback.


All the parties need to honey-trap voters is to throw a bait -- it is debt waiver for farmers and jobs and smart phones for youth. Consider this: Just within a week of Amarinder launching ‘Captain Smart Connect’, the scheme which promises 50 lakh smart phones with free data and calling to youth within 100 days of Congress government, the online registration has crossed 15-lakh mark.

On Tuesday, Amarinder launched yet another campaign ‘Har Ghar Ton Ikk Captain’ that promises one job, per family to map youth voters. The ‘berozgari bhatta’ card can be activated by dialling a number and entering the card details for completion of registration.

The Congress’ door-to-door campaign on debt waiver, ‘Karza Kurki Khatam, Fasal ki Poori Rakm’, has got data forms filled from 34 lakh people, of which unique debt waiver forms (mangpatra) have been collected from 28 lakh farmers. An average of 3.25 lakh households have been tapped in each of Punjab’s 117 assembly seats covering over 9,000 villages.

The Jago Punjab campaign -- which is running from Amarinder’s residence in Chandigarh -- has captured details of nearly 6 lakh youth by asking them to give a missed call to get enrolled as social media volunteers. The ‘Halke Vich Captain’ programme which took Amarinder on a whirlwind tour of assembly constituencies has been abruptly discontinued for road shows. The data collection did not match the paraphernalia involved of tents, seats, caterers and marriage halls. The party could muster just 2.5 lakh total attendees, of which 1.7 lakh were petitioners who submitted their complaints to Amarinder at the gala shows and got mobile stickers and a key chain in return along with promise of grievances being redressed within 100 days of Congress government coming to power.

The Punjab Congress Express -- leaders touring state’s 13 Lok Sabha constituencies in Tempo Travellers -- is no more “on a roll” but it has helped the party collect data of over 11 lakh people through 857 nukkad meetings so far.


The AAP started the numbers game with its Punjab Jodo campaign, which gave the Congress the jitters. Now both the parties are accusing each other of “stealing” ideas and poll promises. According to information obtained from AAP, its Parivar Jodo programme has covered 30.8 lakh families and its signature campaign with women, Dalits, traders and ex-servicemen has crossed 32 lakh-mark. Another nine lakh families have been covered under the debt waiver campaign. How does the data translate into votes? Much of it is through calls, messages and publicity on social media. Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committe (IPAC) and Jago Punjab use the database to call and message content on WhatsApp groups.


The Jago Punjab campaign of the Congress has a creative team to make spoofs, memes, mash-ups and cartoons which are posted on its official Facebook page by the same name and at least 30 “unofficial” ones.

Its 700 social media warriors spread this content across 30,000 people through various WhatsApp groups. When these 30,000 share the content with others, a news item, picture or video goes viral as a chain reaction. A video of Amarinder beating Kejriwal in a game of wrestling has clocked 1.5 lakh views and that of Amarinder as superman, more than two lakh views.

“Since sharing content to lakhs of people involves high costs, we distribute only important news such as launch of a new campaign in our entire database and across all social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp along with IPAC. The Jago Punjab team alone has 1.3 lakh followers on Facebook and a database of 6 lakh voters through missed calls. We are creating content for college students in the age-group of 18 to 22 years who like fun stuff,” says Gobind Khatra, the former president of Punjab NSUI, who is handling the campaign.

So next time tweets of the AAP, Congress or SAD are trending on Twitter, you know where are they getting the numbers.