– by ORKASH Labs, Copyright: ORKASH Services Pvt Ltd
Summary: In an unprecedented phenomenon the AAP has created a powerful impact in a very short term by its mere entry into national level politics. ORKASH’s research here uses social-media data (i.e. many millions of social media conversations) and game theory models to identify and analyse the forces that are shaping many new, but ‘fragile’, trends in the Indian political environment in the build up to the 2014 elections. We find two major dimensions of AAP’s impact at the national level, namely:
- ‘rules of the game’ of the Indian politics have changed significantly, triggered by the AAP phenomena. However, how different parties would respond to these, internally at the organization level and externally in their strategies, is the new uncertainty.
- the statistics of the outcome of the 2014 elections, such as winning margins, vote-bank splits, voter polarization, vote swings, rural versus urban voting pattern divide, are all set to change. Political parties would do well to put the effort to interpret these and take the steps to accommodate and plan for the execution and operational implementation related changes these represent for their campaigning. (Even if the Aam Admi Party were to get a mere 5% of votes, it has the potential to emerge as a major influence factor in the election results, given the thin margins of victory that are likely due to a three-way or four-way split contest in a large majority of constituencies.)
Statistics show that the AAP seems to be developing into a national level phenomenon. The party has taken both the Social Media and the News Media by storm by becoming the most talked about Indian political party. Using Orkash’s Social Media Analytics platform to analyse data from Twitter, we can see some very interesting trends.
- The AAP has over 16 lakh (1.6 million) tweets about it whereas the BJP and Congress lag behind at 14 lakh (1.4 million) and 11 lakh (1.1 million) respectively.
- The AAP is not just a North India or Delhi specific phenomenon as 41% of politics related tweets in South India discuss the party whereas the number is 34% in the North. Between 40-50% of tweets in South Indian cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Trivandrum discuss the AAP. Below we can see tweets on the AAP originating from cities, all over the country.
These trends show the AAP appealing to a wider base than any small Regional party has managed in a long time. (Note: The numbers in smaller cities are relatively less, but statistically significant given their lower population)
Disrupting the National Level Political Equilibrium
The AAP, merely with its entry, is impacting the National level political dynamics. To understand this we use a Game Theory model to depict the game of Indian Politics. Consider a line which depicts the electorate, and voters spread out uniformly in a linear fashion, along it. Each voter has only one vote.
We have two ‘National’ parties – the Congress and the BJP. They are the players of this game – C and B, respectively. The objective of the game is for the players to position themselves along the line in such a way, so as to garner the maximum share of the votes. The assumption is that voters vote for the candidate closest to them, in terms of position. In political terms, this would mean that voters vote for candidates who are most aligned with their voting priorities and that political parties take stands with the motive of garnering the maximum possible vote share. So in this two player game what have C and B been doing historically?
The logic of the game suggests that the only place the two Players would strategically stabilize would be exactly at the center, such that both appeal to the median voter. By definition an equilibrium is a state of rest where no player has an incentive to shift from his/her position. In a game with players competing for vote share, this implies that at an equilibrium, the players are positioned such that no deviation by any player can bring it more vote share, no further gain can be made by deviating. This situation is thus, an equilibrium as there are no incentives to deviate. Consider any other combination of positions and you will see that in every case, incentives to deviate will exist. No other combination of positions, can be an equilibrium. Not an equilibrium case. Reason it out yourself.
Enter a third player.
Unlike the national level, we have seen at the state level that the political environment is not just limited to two parties. Various regional players come into the picture. Here we add a third player – A. If all three parties position themselves at the center, they each only manage 1/3rd share of the votes. Is this an equilibrium? No, were any one of them to shift slightly to the right or left, they would gain.
Consider any combination of positions in a 3 player game and you will see that with three players, no equilibrium is possible.
Think over the logic for the case above. It is not an equilibrium either. There is no stability in such a case, and players constantly change their position in response to another player’s actions. Stability can only come about if one player quits the game, or if two players decide to merge and reduce the game back to that of 2 players. Examining state level politics in states like Uttar Pradesh or Tamil Nadu we see that such dynamics have been at play for a while and have led to low victory margins and coalitions. Either the players cut each other’s vote share leading to narrow margins, or they join together (as coalition partners) to reduce the number of players and lend more stability to the game. In the 2009 elections, the average margin of victory in a parliamentary constituency was a mere 9.7 percent, the thinnest margin since independence, reflecting stiffer competition. We can see in the graph below, the median margins of victory across states in the 2009 General Elections. Notice that in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, where we see that regional parties are relatively more active, the median margin of victory lies between 5% and 10% only.
AAP – the National Level third player
The entry of AAP is creating the same effect as state level regional parties, but at the National level. The Aam Aadmi Party claims to have taken a stand different from what Indian politics had been accustomed to – No VIP Culture, No corruption, Moving past Caste and Community based politics and financial transparency regarding Party funding. What does this mean for politics? The AAP has refused to ally with any party with a dubious past which means it is unlikely that the National level political game will reduce to a two player game, unless the AAP ceases to be a significant player. If the National Level Political Game becomes a three player game – we will see disequilibrium.
The Congress and BJP will not be able to stick to their old strategies of wooing the median voter.
We take these stands of the Congress and BJP for granted to such an extent, that functioning outside of them seemed impossible. They ended up forming the rules within which politics was played. But with the emergence of the AAP we are seeing a perception change. Thus, in order to compete in the game, the Congress and BJP, must shift their stances strategically.
New rules will have to be written if the AAP establishes itself as a credible national player.
The AAP – Changing the Rules of Indian Politics
The AAP’s success in Delhi need not be replicated at the National Level, however it is clear that they are attempting to play the game outside of previously defined rules. Let us look in deeper at some of these and the changes we are seeing in the strategies of other parties, as a response.
Fielding Candidates who can get votes, irrespective of their Criminal past
The AAPs insistence on clean candidates for the Delhi elections as well as now for the Lok Sabha elections, and their direct challenge to MPs with corrupt pasts is a strategy which is causing much stress to other players. We are already seeing that the Congress and BJP, as a response, are unwilling to take the gamble of keeping their old corrupt candidates in the game. The Congress is thinking twice before providing a ticket to Suresh Kalmadi’s daughter or to Ashok Chavan, which would’ve been a no brainer for them in the past.
For the upcoming elections, the AAP effect will ensure that a Cleaner slate of candidates enters the arena.
Defying the Cast & Community based voting patterns
The AAP is making a concerted effort to ensure a wide appeal instead of being drawn into Caste and Community based politics. The party members proclaim themselves to be representatives of the ‘Aam Aadmi’. In the Delhi Assembly elections the AAP won 9 out of the 12 reserved category seats without appealing to these communities in particular. On the other hand Modi, for the first time, is being positioned as an OBC success story too woo the community. The downplaying of the BJP’s Hindutva stance and focus on governance in Modi’s national level election campaign has also been noticeable, displaying the strategy and focus areas of the BJP very clearly. Admittedly caste and community based politics makes up such a large part of the way Indian Politics is played out that major changes will take a while to manifest themselves.
The AAPs success or failure in positioning itself as a truly national party and it’s ability to sustain itself will be a huge factor in determining the future of caste and community based politics in India in the long run.
Clean Governance as an Agenda
As part of their agenda for Clean Governance, the AAP has been fighting for the Jan Lokpal bill resorting to high profile attention grabbing tactics on the issue.. They even dissolved their government when the bill was not passed in the Delhi Assembly, as per their demands. The BJP has also been preaching an anti-corruption and good governance stand for this election which means that the AAP is directly competing with it in this domain. In the graphs below we see that the AAP is widely discussed in relation to clean governance and anti corruption on Twitter. The words anti and corruption are the most widely used negative words in relation to AAP, which when combined, tell us that it’s anti-corruption image has been well established. In terms of positive terms used with respect to the AAP we see – clean, good, support, right and free making up the largest shares.
The VIP Culture
The AAP has refused ‘Laal Battis’, high security and VIP accommodations. As a result, we have debates on the media and steps taken by several politicians to save their image.
Ignoring the Aam Aadmi
The AAP claims to give people a voice versus decisions being taken purely by those elected. This has struck a chord with people as a result of which other parties are following suit. Janta Darbars are being organised in several states by different parties.
The Anti-VIP culture and Voice of the Common Man stands are more to build the party image and it is likely that most such efforts will be seen prior to elections. If the AAP includes the common man in it’s decision making process post elections and performs well, it is only then that such stands will grow beyond marketing gimmicks.
75% of the funding of the Congress and the BJP comes from unknown sources, allowing for corruption. Taking a different stand, the AAP publishes the details of all its donors, irrespective of the amount of donation. It also mentions the passport numbers of NRIs who donate to the AAP. People, the voters, have now seen that it is possible to play by different rules. This change in perception is the driving force behind the change in politics. An interesting interplay of strategies will be seen in the run up to these elections, in this situation of disequilibrium and uncertainty.
Likely Rifts and Shifts within Major Parties
Congress – The Congress party is at its lowest and will need to take drastic measures to redeem itself by disengaging with the rules of politics it is responsible for establishing.
In a step away from its usual High Command dominated selection of candidates, the Congress party is holding primaries (intra-party elections) to select candidates for some Lok Sabha seats.
Rahul Gandhi is being given greater responsibilities and a larger role to play. Cleaner candidates are being considered and the Congress party’s performance positives are being widely publicized. With the advent of newer cleaner candidates many of the well entrenched senior Congress members may not get the same leeway they earlier did, and many of them may even be denied a ticket. This will lead to confrontation within the party between the old and new. Rifts have already begun to be seen with many senior leaders unhappy with the primaries. The party structure is likely to shift in favour of the newer younger cleaner generation. These changes will take some time to manifest themselves but it is possible that these changes are just what the party needs to revamp it’s image.
BJP – A similar intra party change in structure will take place in the BJP, but the urgency may not be as high as that for Congress as the BJP has managed to create a strong campaign around Modi, helped by the anti-Congress mood in the country. The Modi campaign has been actively wooing the youth. A lot of young professionals have also been hired to run the campaign, and have come up with ideas like ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ and compilation of the book ‘Moditva’. Over the past two weeks we see that the handles used on twitter, with respect to the BJP, are increasingly campaign oriented. Notice, there is hardly any mention of the BJP as a party. Modi leads the way with his new Chai Pe Charcha campaign, #namo4pm, #namoinkolkata, #namo and #yuva4namo entering the fray.
The success of the campaign, recently, can be better measured if we compare the shares of the political parties in twitter conversations over the past 5 weeks, to that over the past two weeks. We looked at the former in the beginning with the AAP at 39%, the BJP at 33% and the Congress at 27%. Below, we have the same graph but for the time period of 1/02/14 to 15/02/14.
We see that the BJP’s share in conversations has increased significantly in comparison to the overall, with the BJP now at 43%, the AAP at 40% and the Congress lagging far behind at a mere 16%.
AAP – The AAP may have brought about interesting changes by its mere entry, however, after coming to power it has been involved in a lot of controversies. As a result there has been some degree of disenchantment with the party.The AAP needs to tread carefully and make sure it does not lose out on the support base it created. We analysed the twitter conversations regarding AAP with reference to controversies that have cropped up over the past few months. We see that the handles that show up in such a scenario, do give some insight into a degree of disenchantment with the party. Handles that crop up are #aapdrama, #quitaap, #dharna, #aapinaction, #bhagodakejri, #gamblecrumbles and #anarchy. On the other hand support bases also exist, in the form of handles like #arvindatcii, #karntikaariaapgovt, #rilgasscam and #yokejriwalsobrave.
The AAP will need to perform well and think its actions through wherever it is elected. It is possible that they may be more successful in their drive against corruption and changing the system just by practicing activisim politics, without actually forming the government. Being in power forces them to look at numerous issues they haven’t thought out. It also makes them more vulnerable to attack by other parties as they are direct competition. Spreading thin their resources in order to win seats all over the country can lead to a dilution in ideology as the more people join a movement, the more views join in as well. Starting a nation wide campaign in a few short months is tough task and may lead to errors of judgement, which the Media will definitely latch onto. This will be a decision to take for the AAP as it moves forward, how can it be more successful – through activist politics or by getting into mainstream politics and attempting to govern, leaving itself more vulnerable to risks. This will determine whether the AAP will be able to sustain itself as a credible national force which in turn will determine the way Indian Politics will go in the future.