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Politics News

Political parties keep a private eye to advise on ticket seekers and rivals

Thursday - Apr 05, 2012, 02:00pm (GMT+5.5)
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Political parties keep a private eye to advise on ticket seekers and rivalsNew Delhi - As political parties learn to set up central war-rooms in their headquarters during elections to civic bodies, state assemblies or the Lok Sabha, they are increasingly depending on private detective agencies to collect and collate data in order to gauge people's mood, select prospective candidates and know rival strategies.

Sniffing a business opportunity, private players have come up with specialised services of providing ground report to political leaders. The concept of 'political intelligence' that emerged in 2004-05 is fast gaining currency where private intelligence firms are hired to seek credible information about candidates seeking party ticket or obtain information about the party's policies and their assessment about the identified political leaders of their own party in their areas of influence.

"Till about a decade back, there were just about two private firms for this kind of work but today this specialised line has a lot of takers," said Kunwar Vikram Singh, chairman of Association of Private Detective and Investigators ( APDI). At present, there are approximately 35 players across India, out of which five are national and the remaining 30 are regional or local. "In the past seven years this field has grown at a staggering 200-300%," he said.

VM Pandit, former CBI chief and chairman of Multi-Dimensional Management Consultancy said, "Although the government has the biggest intelligence machinery and its own party cadres, they are not always reliable as seen during the debacle of Indira Gandhi in 1977 and the drubbing of BJP's 'India Shining' campaign in 2004. So, we act as an unbiased third party."

Pandit has been hired by the Congress for verification and seeking information of party ticket nominees from some key constituencies in the upcoming Delhi Municipal elections. According to him, a detailed intelligence analysis report on the candidate or nominee's winnability has already been submitted to the high command.

Interestingly, in 1991 he was hired by Congress' arch-rival Bharatiya Janata Party for investigating "political affairs" of Shyam Charan Shukla, two-times chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, in Rajim and Buha Para constituencies of Raipur district

On an average, revenues and profits from any assignment at national or state level ranges from 25% to 40%. "For instance, if an MP candidate has 2 crore as the election budget, around 20% of this is spent on election intelligence," said Pandit. "A similar mechanism is there for state elections too. The USP of this field is that money is never a problem."

Industry players say it is both a volume- and individual-based business. For many on the professional front, it is about volumes i.e. the number of seats or constituencies offered to them for assessment and for a few it's more about personal equation with individual clients or candidates.

"The major ground work services provided by us include pre-election, constituency-based socio-economic research, background check of prospective candidates seeking ticket, their socio-political status, reputation check," said Kunwar Vikram Singh, who runs Lancer Network, one of the oldest detective agencies in the country. "Win-ability factors and dissention levels among prominent workers and local leaders and also to check on the anti-party activity of those who were denied ticket," he added.

Services provided by the intelligence firms are different from what the general marketing or political research companies, who conduct pre-poll and exit polls jointly with media houses, do. "We conduct multiple-surveys at the grass root level and collect every minute detail," said Vivek Bagri, chairman of Infoelection Leadtech.

Infoelection Leadtech was established in 2008 and has been in this business for over three years now. They are primarily into political research and electoral intelligence gathering via booth-level analysis of voter's sentiments about the party and the candidates.


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