KOCHI: With fears of EVM hacking and disenfranchisement of lakhs of voters reigning high, booth management was among the top priorities of the Congress during the recent Assembly elections. Managing this from behind the scenes was Kochi native Swapna Patronis, 42, one of the four national coordinators of the AICC data analytics department set up in February.
Swapna, who is also Ernakulam DCC general secretary and national secretary of AICC research cell Vichar Vibhag, joined the department in May when its Shakti programme, under which every Congress worker must register, was launched.
An alumnus of St Teresa’s College and a political science postgraduate from JNU, Swapna started working closely with the party following her MPhil thesis on the ‘organisational structure of the Congress-I’.
“We analysed the trends of the 2009 and 2014 elections, and gave Congress workers the responsibility to manage booths and connect with voters,” said Swapna, the sole woman in the department. “We started our work on the ground two months back, before the campaigning began in earnest.”
The Congress has lagged behind in tapping into data analytics, something the BJP has been doing since 2010. But it reaped rich rewards for the former in the recent elections, unearthing “large-scale discrepancies”, pointed out Swapna.
“From my personal experience in Telangana, I know lakhs of people from the minority community in Hyderabad were eliminated from the voters’ list. The Shakti programme requires every single Congress worker to register with us using their voter ID. But many complained to us that they were unable to do so. We pointed out the anomaly to the National and State Election Commission and had it rectified,” she said.
Swapna has been given the charge of MP, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. She felt the agrarian unrest brewing in the northern belt on a campaign visit to MP’s Damoh district. “We asked our workers to focus on the issues faced by farmers and also on the unemployment issue in their door-to-door campaign,” she said.
“We were not entirely happy with the election results; we were hoping for a better margin in Rajasthan with at least 130 seats. We will have to do a detailed study to see what the flaws were and try to rectify it for the Lok Sabha elections.”
According to Swapna, Congress will make a return to power in 2019. “We must put an end to the BJP’s anti-secular policies. We are a diverse country and the peace that existed among communities has to be brought back,” she said.