ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Professionalising Election Campaigns

The Emergence of Political Consulting

The 2014 and 2019 general elections in India were referred to as “WhatsApp elections,” which had IT cells, bots, and political consultants strategically using data mining tools to build resonant narratives to tell voters what they wanted to hear. By the 2014 national election, the industry was reported to be worth $40–$47 million. Between 2014 and 2018, industry specialists approximated that the number of firms in this market had at least doubled. These unprecedented tools of technological campaigning come with new forms of identifying, targeting, and defining issues of political importance. This article suggests that such developments are turning electoral politics into a thriving business being data-driven, technologically oriented, and having far-reaching implications for democratic processes.


The author would like to thank her interlocutors and interviewees for their time, as well as both anonymous reviewers for their generous and useful comments.

A post-independence India strived to build a self-reliant economy, where economic development was largely driven by the state. The governments general suspicion of both foreign and private interests pervaded the internal advisory process for decades after independence. While lobbying is stigmatised, the lines between lobbying, advisory capacity, and advocacy are blurry. Chambers of commerce and domestic business groups representing big business interests influenced major decisions within economic planning (Chibber 2003). Several state advisory groups were set up to oversee state planning and allocate budgets for further industrial and social development. The global economic crisis, along with the tensions manifested through the Cold War in the 1980s, led to a shift in the dominant paradigms of the state and private sector (Sanyal 2007).

In the 1980s, Kaviraj (1988) argued that a coalitional strategy between the bureaucraticmanagerial intellectual elite, landed elite, and monopoly bourgeoisie gave these groups dominance over state-directed processes of economic growth and the allocational necessities indicated by the bourgeois democratic political system (Kaviraj 1988: 1230). Chatterjee (2011) argues that since economic liberalisation in 1991, the balance of power in India has shifted. The rise in influence of the corporate class in comparison to the landed elite and the opening up of a range of sectors to foreign and private control has changed the nature of monopoly houses.

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Published On : 17th Jan, 2024

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