Professionals in Politics: Explaining the Rise of Political Consulting Firms in India

In recent years, India’s election campaigns have undergone a process of ‘professionalization’ as witnessed by the growing role of professional campaign mangers, spin-doctors, public relations experts, and political consultancy firms in the affairs of electoral and party politics. Prashant Kishor, the so-called ‘master strategist’ behind BJP’s victory in the 2014 General Elections, and his organisations (CAG & I-PAC) are paradigmatic examples of this ‘professionalization of politics’. What explains the meteoric rise of political consultants in India? This paper argues that to understand the growing popularity of such political consulting firms we need to turn our attention to the political culture of the Indian middle-class and their changing mechanisms of participation in public life. Based on fieldwork conducted in New Delhi, I show how becoming a political consultant allows middle-class citizens to assuage their anxieties and fears about the world of politics, and how it enables them to fashion themselves as civic-minded citizens who are advancing managerial and technocratic professionalism in Indian politics.