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Mining Twitter for insight on Delhi Elections

We have been pushing hard on the Data Journalism front- here is some work we did recently.

So, with the Delhi assembly elections weeks away, we decided to dip a barometer into the social media world to gauge the political chatter.

We looked at re-tweets — a re-tweet is seen as an endorsement.
http://datastore.rediff.com/h5000-w5000/thumb/5C66667261/yn7oz0y6vfdjto2q.D.0.Delhi_Twitterati.jpg

And we chose what you can call the twitterati — people who make an effort to be heard on Twitter; many are journalists and in that sense their influence may be disproportionate to their numbers.

We looked only at re-tweets from the Twitter ID of these personalities — such as Congress politicians (digvijaya_28, JhaSanjay, priyankac19, PMOIndia), Bharatiya Janata Party politicians (RajnathSingh, SushmaSwaraj, narendramodi, nitingadkari, VijayGoel), Aam Aadmi Party members (sanjayazadsln, ArvindKejriwal, AapYogendra, thekiranbedi), and high-profile journalists (KanchanGupta, swapan55, minhazmerchant, madhukishwar, sardesairajdeep, BDUTT, sagarikaghose, vikramchandra, AmolSharmaWsj, SachinKalbag, madversity, rahulkanwal).

We focused on re-tweets about topics that matter to Delhi-ites — such as elections, law and order, power cuts, women’s safety, corruption, inflation, unemployment, Lokpal, ordinance, Batla House, onions, Delhi, rapes,  electricity, prices, cost, traffic, water, shortage, scarcity.

As you can see from re-tweets for six days ending October 30, the Delhi twitterati have overwhelmingly endorsed stuff from BJP and Aam Admi sources.

The official Congress sources and even the Prime Minister’s Office are soft voices, barely audible on these Delhi-centric topics.

You can see a close-up of this here

In the coming days we will show you who the most active re-tweeters are for each party and what topics excite them to re-tweet to most.

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Citizens’ Efforts to Improve Elections


I got this mail from Gerson Da Cunha of Agni:

“Since 1999, AGNI has sought to mobilize and guide citizens at the time of elections, whether to the Lok Sabha, Maharashtra Assembly or Mumbai municipal corporation.  Citizens of Mumbai have now come to look to AGNI for help in this sense.  It was no different for the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha, roughly February to April 2009, with demands and phone calls intensifying as Election Day, April 30, approached.

The queries often became angry, with citizens believing that AGNI was virtually a government department, in charge of the electoral rolls / voter registration etc. As for every election, AGNI ran consultations on, and developed, a Citizens’ Charter and Local Area Action Groups to impress on citizens the great importance of voting. Near Election Day, the Charters were presented to all candidates at citizen meetings.

AGNI made a special point of involving and supporting the media both press and electronic.  Not for just this reason, the media supported and promoted the elections in an unprecedented way.

AGNI’s efforts were concentrated on citizens exposed to the media, print and electronic, and those that AGNI naturally relates to: the middle classes.  The overall voting percentage was 41% of a voting population of 8 million plus against 43% of 1 million fewer in 2004.  But it is now established that there was substantially lower turnout in the city’s slums – 60% of the population – and in Muslim dominated areas. The reasons are numerous and complex, among them problems with interests now called “vote brokers.”  Who, then, brought the voting proportion even as high as 41%?  It is not illogical to believe that the middle classes turned out in greater numbers this time round, a development presaged by the unusually large queues at polling booths in middle class areas.

This is an eminently desirable development given that these classes are more aware of political issues, are less affected than others by caste / religion / language compulsions, and by money or muscle power.

Some features of the AGNI Campaign

There was a significant volume of citizen ignorance and complaint voiced to AGNI. To help with registration, a locality drive was flagged off in a quiet locality of Central Mumbai.  The local AGNI Coordinator got an officer from the local ERO to run a street corner registration office. As many as 200 registrations were effected in an afternoon, compared to only 2 applications over a whole week at the ERO.  This is an initiative that deserves to be widely replicated in the city and supported by the CEO / Collectors.

Ms Shyama Kulkarni of AGNI and college students, forming an “I-Vote” group went out to some 30 colleges, supported by local AGNI Coordinators.  The CEO Maharashtra wrote to some 80 college principals asking them to facilitate registration of eligible students. In this way, AGNI Coordinators and volunteers were able to get as many as some 12,000 young people registered.

Supply of CDs and Rolls

Citizens’ concern about their enrolment status is a major issue.  The CEO’s website is of little use because not everyone has access to the internet and, once there, numerous problems assail the enquirer.  The CEO making available to AGNI the rolls on CDs did help.  But this is an area that demands study and new measures of assistance to citizens. The AGNI / ERO relationship in several areas helped to resolve some problems but the solution should not depend on this relationship and cooperative EROs.  AGNI has the satisfaction of having helped countless people to verify their registration status and to orient Citizen Help Groups e.g. SEVA in Dahisar.

 “Meet Your Candidates” events

AGNI conducted or participated in about a dozen events of this kind.  Candidates were invited to interact with citizens, sign off on the Citizen Charters and commit themselves to implementation of those demands.  We are now in a period of dialogue with elected MPs on an implementation process.  Meetings are being fixed. In some constituencies, AGNI was able to motivate voting despite calls for a boycott of voting for local reasons. Five of the city’s six constituencies were covered in this way.

 Spreading awareness of candidate disclosures

Alongwith the Association for Democratic Reform (ADR),  AGNI summarized and summed up in easily identifiable form the disclosures made by 100 odd candidates as to their police record, if any, education and assets / liabilities.  Very useful tables were produced.  They were published in an AGNI organ “Mumbai Meri Jaan” of which 3 lac copies were printed and distributed.

 Janaagraha of Bangalore ran for AGNI and other citizen groups a series of training sessions in which citizens were prepared for running training sessions in their own localities.

 Collaboration with the CEO and State machinery

The CEO and Collectors (City and Suburbs) were understanding and prompt with their cooperation. This cannot be sufficiently applauded. But their attitude was not always reflected at the ERO level, the vital interface with citizens, where neglect, ignorance and carelessness were often experienced.

 The election mechanism in the land has to depend on staff from a variety of other departments whose careers do not depend on performance at election time.  This explains some of the problems, but not all.  Training of such “visitors” must be taken much more seriously by them as well as the election authorities in the State.  They will be aware of other ways in which the citizen can be better served, an issue that is given an undesirably low priority, well below the convenience of the administration.”

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