Engaging Citizens to Rate the Performance of Politicians: 'I For India'

The political discourse in India has never been more exciting than it is right now. With the entry of Aam Aadmi Party, politics has undergone a complete makeover over the past 1.5 years. From chaiwallahs to CEOs, everybody is taking a keen interest in politics. It is very well the first time since India became independent that there is a common voice by the citizens of India to choose honest and uncorrupt leaders. This is possibly the first since the historical Loksatta movement started by Jayprakash Narayan that the common man is showing some hope in politics, in the belief that things might change with the advent of promising leaders.

Even the youth, which is often labeled as apathetic and indifferent to politics and voting, is starting to take an interest. Social media is playing an influential role here. Facebook walls are filled with election commentary, and debates on the virtues and vices of different political parties and candidates.The Election Commission has put in extra efforts such as enrolling film stars and cricketers as ambassadors, organizing street plays, conducting slogan writing competitions at colleges to motivate youngsters to vote. As per the Public Information Bureau data, there are 160 million new voters this time.

The media is constantly tracking the campaigns of the Bhartiya Janata Party, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party, the three big contenders in the game. Discussions are usually centered on which party to vote for. Few of us look at the candidate contesting from our constituency. I for India Foundation, a technology based political startup, aims to change this. In 2013, the organization launched a website where citizens can express their views, and rate the performance of their elected Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) in their constituency. Ratings are categorized into four areas: Basic Needs (covering electricity, water, transport, education, health care), Governance and Administration (covering law and order, inflation, poverty), Growth and Progress (traffic, roads, jobs) and Reputation (scams, religious harmony). The data is collated to develop an overall report card on the performance of the elected representative.

I For India Foundation was founded by Ankur Garg, a former employee of Microsoft India at Gurgaon. Garg left his full time job of seven years to pursue his dream of revolutionalizing politics. He found support from Tarun Jain, his Co-Founder, who eventually moved to India from the U.S., where he was working at Capital One Financial. The initial response has been overwhelming. I for India had close to 1.5 lakh unique visitors, and about two-thirds of the assembly constituencies, and 98 percent of parliamentary constituencies are currently represented on the site. Report cards of all 28 states and two union territories are also available on the platform. Apart from the core team, more than 200 volunteers have supported with on-ground and online activities. The report cards and ratings reflect the daily challenges faced by citizens due to issues such as corrupt governance, lack of proper infrastructure, problems in law and order, etc.

I for India Foundation is established as a non-profit entity and while it has a clear social motive, the organisation is looking to engage with representatives and provide electoral intelligence and political consultancy to make the organization sustainable and scalable in the long run. I for India has been supported by celebrities and eminent personalities such as Bhupendra Chaubey (National Affairs Editor, CNN-IBN), Dr S.Y. Quraishi (Ex- Chief Election Commissioner, India), Gul Panag (Actress) and Ravi Venkatesan (Ex- Chairman, Microsoft India).


The author is working as the manager of outreach at I for India Foundation.