Shakti App Mobilizes Congress as it tries to reach Grassroots Directly

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Shakti App Mobilizes Congress as it tries to reach Grassroots Directly

Chetan Bhattarai | February 15, 2019 12:31 hrs

This app by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) is creating a buzz within the organizational circles of the Congress party. Congress president Rahul Gandhi can be seen in a video requesting workers to join the app and get connected with him. 

Just a few days ago, the new general secretary of the Congress Party, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, used an app to connect to party workers. The app is called Shakti – the voice of the Congress worker.

“I am coming tomorrow to Lucknow to meet all of you. I have hope in my heart that together we will start a new kind of politics, a politics in which all of you will be stakeholders — my young friends, my sisters and even the weakest person, all their voices will be heard,” said Priyanka Gandhi through the Shakti App.

This is Congress’s internal digital platform and is not available in the mobile store or other platforms. One needs to send the voter card number to a specific phone number to get registered. It aims to connect every single enrolled member to Rahul Gandhi directly.

Rahul Gandhi used the Shakti app to get feedback from over three lakh members in Chhattisgarh before the name of Bhupesh Baghel was decided as the chief minister. So, it’s not something that the Congress functionaries will ignore. The party president is sure about its usage and is said to be the man behind it. Not only does he seek suggestions, Gandhi has been making phone calls to workers who are enrolled in the app. He is involved in this process and directly monitors the whole system. P Chidambaram and Ahmed Patel are the other two Congress leaders involved directly with Shakti.

The Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) also has a team working on Shakti. Pradyut Bhuyan, General Secretary, APCC and State Coordinator of Data Analytics Department (AICC), is also the coordinator of the Shakti project for the state of Assam. He is a busy person getting more and more enrollment with his team working day and night. “We have crossed one lakh members and hope to enroll around three lakh by the time we get down to the election mode. Each Congress applicant for the 14 seats has to show 2,000 enrolments to get priority during ticket selection.”

Describing the effectiveness of Shakti and its role in the running of the Congress party, Pradyut Bhuyan related a recent incident, “Rahul Gandhi was travelling to Kerala on 30th January and he asked for a feedback from over one lakh Shakti users as to what Congress can do for Kerala. Around 14,580 responded and in those feedbacks Rahulji liked five messages. Later, during the rally, Rahul Gandhi announced the name and number of the Shakti member whose feedback he liked most. The guy was the hero of the day and this is how Shakti has drawn people to the Congress.”

“Similarly, in another incident, there was a bus accident in Maharashtra where many had died. So what Rahul Gandhi did was through Shakti he sent a message to the members to go help the people. There was no police or administration but hundreds of Congress workers reached the spot and helped the survivors,” added Bhuyan. 

On being asked how it is possible to get feedback or reports from everyone, Bhuyan said “There is a system to incentivize the workers through a points system. The tasks given will accumulate as points and those reaching 1,000 points are the ones selected for important feedback and suggestions. Feedback is sought only from workers who have accumulated 1,000 points against their name.”

Though in its initial stage, Shakti has started showing results for the Congress party. In the recent polls held in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the party used Shakti extensively to give tasks to its members that included making people aware of rallies and meetings, organizing protests and house-to-house campaigning for the candidates. The workers completed the tasks and sent updates via SMSes or through WhatsApp and then the data team worked on it to reward those members with points who sent relevant information.

“Shakti has been instrumental in the number of people attending Rahul Gandhi’s rally increase manifold. People like it when they know that the president himself has requested them something. It may be a small task but they enjoy the engagement part of it. This has also helped the AICC immensely as they now don’t have to rely on the state or the district level functionaries for all kinds of issues. As each booth is mapped they can now communicate with the workers directly. Not only the booths, AICC can now get in touch with all the members of the state over a single message,” said Bhuyan.

Bhuyan’s team member in Assam, Ratan Boro, Secretary APCC and co-coordinator for Shakti said, “The more a worker engages himself in the activities his chances of getting noticed improve. As the data generated goes to the president himself, Rahulji is free to make a call when there is some issue. Actually, it’s an open world in Congress. If you work dedicatedly and sincerely you are bound to get noticed through Shakti. You don’t need to run around party offices.” 

“It is not only a database but is a group communication tool for Rahul Gandhi. This is the way to weed out fake members and use the feedback mechanism to reach out to genuine workers. Members enrolled in the system like it as they know that they can get appreciated by the president himself,” added Ratan Boro.

As this is a continuous process Congress workers don’t feel left out. Something or the other is being assigned to the workers regularly. It is a step away from the past when workers were used mainly during the election time and then forgotten. With Shakti, Congress now knows who are the workers involved in spreading the party’s message and then rewards them accordingly.

“A member in Lok Sabha will have 2,000 booth committees. So when a message is being sent about a meeting at a particular location, all these members will come to know about the meeting immediately. Moreover, word will spread around among the general public that a meeting will be held. So, this is how it will galvanize the mobilization of people,” said Bhuyan.
At present, Karnataka leads the pack with around 8 lakh Shakti users which is evident from its recent win there in the state elections. The mobilization and engagement part has been greatly helped by Shakti.

“This is a process to entirely digitalize the Congress politics. It will no more be the old way of doing politics and it will be more genuine as it is through the voters’ list, unlike the missed-call business. This is not a Congress membership drive. Any citizen can become a part of it by simply enrolling in Shakti. It is not necessary that you have to be a Congress worker to get enrolled. The voice of the Congress worker is Shakti. It is totally genuine due to it being connected with the voter card number,” said Bhuyan.

Praveen Chakravarthy heads the Data Analytics department in AICC and has been working with a band of IT engineers to crunch all that is incoming. Set up in February 2018 this department is working to make sense of all that is coming towards AICC through Shakti. The AICC makes calls directly to the users up to the booth level to reach to the root of the matter. Shakti has crossed over 60 lakh (6 million) members since its inception and is growing every day. 

The recent elections in Karnataka and the Congress’s win in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajashtan gave the maximum boost to this app. With Lok Sabha polls around the corner, numbers are surely going to grow, feels the party.

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