Book Review: How to win an Indian election

THE book is a glimpse inside the mind of a new age campaign manager. The author is a trained economist and has learned sociology and political science by working in Punjab and the North East.  A former colleague of Prashant Kishore, Shivam makes a fearless attempt to demystify the dark side of Indian political parties. It also gives away some of the strategies used by big-spending politicians to get us to sit up and vote.

According to him,  the role of political consultants,  who have made a name for themselves by being outsiders, agnostic to religious and political ideology, raring to be kingmakers, is only going to grow in the immediate future.  And with political campaign consulting becoming more lucrative, PR and advertising firms have also found their way inside election war rooms.



The book is a refreshing look at how strategy and structure bring method to the madness. The erstwhile BJP campaign manager puts out his world view of propaganda and political management using technology. “Technology is not the panacea”, and even though politics is becoming over-dependent on technology, it will never be able to replace grassroot mobilisation campaigns. Given this,  it will be interesting to see how much power consultants will wield in the coming elections.

The book shows us what technology has in store for us as far as the future of Indian elections go. Data can be obtained freely from websites like the Election Commission of India and can be used to map vote swings. Correlating that data with other data sets obtained from telephone companies and research firms makes it possible to predict which caste group is going to vote on which side.

Everyone knows that WhatsApp is going to play a major role in the next general elections. WhatsApp has unassumingly transformed political participation in caste-ridden communities. The famed Stanford prison experiment is discussed at length in the Indian context. Just another indicator of the fusing of electoral knowledge between the West and India. Political experiments executed by the BJP in northeast India need to be examined more minutely to understand the role of new age campaign techniques carried on the shoulders of 20 somethings.



Campaign finance gets a well-deserved chapter in the book. The Election Commission has not been able to do much to curb black money funding of parties and there is no real discourse for campaign funding reform. In fact, campaign finance has become more opaque since the incumbent government introduced electoral bonds.

Overall a brisk read for those who are interested in knowing what political parties are trying to do in 2019. And if you are looking to vote for the BJP, the book is a must read!

The Leaflet