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An "overview" & "reasons" for the changing nature of politics in India:

Politics in India is comprehensively transformed and structurally changed after the ‘General Election, 2014’.

The world’s largest democratic exercise, the ‘Indian General Election 2014’, is long over and marks a paradigm shift in ‘Indian Electoral Politics’. The numbers were extraordinary. Nearly 554 million voters exercised their franchise, selecting 543 members of parliament from a slate of more than 8,000 candidates representing 464 political parties competing across 28 states and seven union territories. Estimates of the money spent on elections hover around $5 billion, second only to the 2012 presidential election in the United States.

Election 2014 saw a shift in outcomes, process and personalities, which in turn will produce further outlier outcomes and this will move on with time to create fundamentally and structurally different political environment in times to come. This will be ‘evolution in politics’ and will have serious ramifications on various political outfits. For example Congress party has been always led by a member of Nehru- Gandhi family except for a few years following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. This actually created a culture of psychological dependence and even senior and seasoned Congressmen look upon the Nehru-Gandhis during election time to provide leadership. This comes to an abrupt halt and the fate of Congress party and its leaders hangs in balance for sure after the 2014 Election verdict.

To quote Ramachandra Guha from a column written a day after the 2014 Election verdict:

"The sometimes noble, sometimes ignoble, 'Structure of renown' erected by Motilal Nehru and his descendants is now merely a heap of rubble."

The political earth of India shook, moving the center of gravity of an Indian election from identity politics to aspirational politics. The Congress high command seems oblivious to these facts and their senior leaders think that the family’s name and reputation still retains its halo, which gives ample opportunities to political strategists to exploit in their favor.

Few highlights that marks the significance of 2014 Election:

  • For the first time the BJP’s vote share was greater than that of the Congress; even during Vajpayee years the Congress had been ahead of the BJP in terms of overall vote share.
  • The BJP became the first non Congress party to win a clear majority on its own (the Janata Party in 1977 was a collection of several parties). In its original avatar as the Jana Sangh, the party had won just three seats and 3.1 per cent of the vote in the 1952 election. Now, it has won 282 seats and 31 per cent of the national vote.
  • For the first time Congress got just 19.3 per cent of the vote,- the first time it’s percentage slipped below 20, in its final tally of 44 seats.( Kerala is the only states where Congress won more than 10 seats.)
  • Even in 1977 election after the emergency, when Congress was routed, and its total seats were mere 148 ( the lowest ever at that time) it still managed to have 34.5 percent of vote share, more than 31 percent that swept the Narendra Modi- led BJP to power in 2014.
  • Conversion of votes to seats was highly nuanced and a exercise in higher mathematics. The Bahujan Samaj Party won 4.1 percent of the all-India vote, in this election making it the third-highest vote getter following the BJP and Congress. For its performance, it won exactly zero seats (out of 503 contested). The Trinamool Congress Party garnered 3.8 percent of the all-India vote. But because this vote was concentrated in one state (West Bengal) where it faced relatively weak competition from other parties, it won 34 of the state’s 42 seats in parliament. (Parties other than Congress or the BJP, namely India’s regional parties, have tended to play a critical role in elections in the coalition era thanks to their increasing vote share. But the 2014 election demonstrated that vote share still does not necessarily equal parliamentary power. Rajiv Gandhi famously led the Congress to a 40% vote share for the party alone in 1989, yet could not form the government.
  • In the 2014 General Election, much has been made of the fact that the BJP won 282 seats, 52 percent of the contestable seats, on just 31 percent of the vote share. By contrast, in 2009, the Congress got just 206 seats, 38 percent of the contestable seats, on 29 percent of the vote share. What explains this great disparity in the number of seats won given similar vote shares? Various theories are put forward to explain this, and all of them could be equally right, such as better strike rates (The BJP contested a total of 428 constituencies, winning in 282 and accounting for a 66 percent strike rate), competitive party, fragmented vote share and so on, but the most elegant and thoughtful reasons can be decisive leadership( choosing proper candidates ), nose and ear to the ground, proper execution of the strategies by the cadres and using innovative technology in campaigns and so on. (When the Congress party won an outright Lok Sabha majority in 1967, then led by Indira Gandhi, daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, its seat total was 283, just one more than the B.J.P.’s ‘2014 Election’ victory. But Indira and Congress needed forty-one per cent of the electorate to get there. And when Congress got a majority of 414 seats, in 1984, it did so with forty-nine per cent of the vote. By accomplishing the feat with just thirty-one per cent, the B.J.P. has set a new record. Nothing unhistoric about that!)
  • In 2014 Elections (breaking with the past), India logged a record high voter turnout: 66.4 percent . This number is especially impressive given that the total size of the electorate eligible to vote has risen sharply. The electorate in 2014 stood at 834 million people, up nearly 16 percent from its 2009 level of roughly 717 million.
  • Apart from high voter turnout, 73 percent or nearly three out of four BJP victories were by margins of over one lakh votes, and this becomes unprecedented when seen in the backdrop of the fact that since 1977, the year in which the Congress government of Indira Gandhi was voted out following a two-year period of emergency rule, the margin of victory in the average Lok Sabha constituency has been decreasing. In the 1977 elections, winners defeated their closest opponent by nearly one-quarter of the total votes cast (26.1 percentage points); in 2009, the margin of victory clocked in at 9.7 percentage points—the thinnest gap on record.
  • All of the above highlighted facts of 2014 Elections mark a complete shift in polity in Indian voters and some political pundit can easily classify it as a start of a fourth electoral system at a later date of his convenience, but for politicians who understand these changes needs to get more methodological in their preparation of ‘Elections and Campaigning’. Political Leaders across the parties, will comprehend at their own pace of evolution (politically) about this reality, which if not comprehended properly will become a real bottleneck in devising strategies of their own in the current political environment.

Former Israeli prime minister Abba Eban once said, ‘ The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.’ Beware.

(The BJP’s treasurer Piyush Goyal had commissioned the leading global market research and polling agency, Penn Schoen Berland, to do a nationwide survey ahead of December 2013 assembly elections. The survey showed that the BJP was ahead of the Congress and was crossing 200 seats on its own . It confirmed that corruption and inflation were the dominant issues and that Modi’s popularity was actually twenty points more than that of the BJP.)

The above point underscores the importance of preparedness and being pragmatic. Victory and defeat are cyclical, as indeed they should be but pragmatism saves us from being wiped out. UPA 2 is in tatters because it thought it had purchased a permanent seat in power. A party has to be ready for life after defeat and its leader should understand the reality. Mrs. Indira Gandhi could save the Congress from 1977’s desolation because of her own emotional relationship with the underprivileged, and the fact that the Congress organisation had not yet withered. Rahul Gandhi has neither of these advantages. It is going to be a hard life ahead.

That nothing is permanent in politics is best exemplified by the left’s pitiable condition. In the 2004 election, they held the balance of power at the Centre and helped shape the first UPA government. Ten years later, they have been reduced to marginal players –intellectual hubris and an unwillingness to adapt to a changing India have made the left parties almost irrelevant to the national discourse.

Pragmatism, Preparedness,and Process driven campaign management will be the key to successful aspirational politics in ‘New India’.

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  • In depth Analysis, based on macro/micro issues, geopolitics, and national politics.
  • Macroeconomic Analysis, to understand wider implications on national and local politics, as it always played its role in election outcomes historically (P Chidambaram of Congress most notably suggested that it was ‘GDP growth’ and ‘inflation’ that costed UPA 2, the mandate in 2014 Election). While the above mentioned conjecture is completely wrong but in 1979, the second oil crisis was of great help to Mrs Indira Gandhi’s return to power in 1980 Election.
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  • Poll Fundings and Financial Engineering, via liasoning and lobbying through corporate and individual entities.

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