Last week, #AAPNaxal and #violentBJP were trending on twitter. With elections inching closer, the sparring between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Aam Aadmi Party is likely to get even more intense, online and offline. What makes this battle more interesting is that both their campaigns share a common history of data gathering and could end up reaching out to the same pool of people.

In the summer of 2011, all roads in Delhi led to Ramlila Maidan where Anna Hazare sat on a fast. Lakhs of people turned up to support India Against Corruption. But an even greater number who could not come to the Maidan took an easier route to expressing their support: they gave a missed call on 022-61550789. IAC had advertised the number and had asked people to leave a missed call to register their support. The idea worked. In less than three months, more than 7.6 million people called. Within six months, 25 million missed calls had been logged in.

“I couldn’t go to Annaji’s fast but I certainly can give a missed call to express my support and encouragement. I regularly give a missed call on that number and also encourage my friends and relatives to follow me," a Delhi based auto-driver, Balwant Singh, told the newspaper DNA.

What Balwant Singh perhaps did not know was that by calling the number not only was he registering his support, he was also giving away consent for getting calls and text messages in the future. Calling this the ‘Great Indian trick,’ Ajit Ranade wrote in Mumbai Mirror that the Mumbai-based company that was managing IAC's campaign, Netcore Solutions Pvt Ltd, had used a software which could convert a missed call into consent for receiving future calls and text messages, as mandated by the Department of Telecom.

The software could also track down information on the caller's geographical location and other details. In essence, by inviting missed calls, Netcore had built a database of numbers and names for IAC, alongside another similar database of emails, solicited through IAC’s website, Facebook page, and other internet forums.

In 2013, Netcore went on to win an award for its cross-media integrated campaign for IAC at the 3rd India Digital Awards. By then, IAC had morphed into the Aam Aadmi Party. At the same time, the founder and managing director of Netcore, Rajesh Jain, was hand-picked as one of two technology experts who would lead the online campaign for BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.

An electrical engineer from IIT Bombay and a post-graduate from Columbia University, 46-year-old Rajesh Jain is one of India’s leading internet entrepreneurs. He is best known for starting the country’s first internet portal IndiaWorld in the mid-nineties, which was sold to Satyam Computer Services for Rs 499 crores, making it one the largest internet deals in Asia.

Jain is clearly a man of considerable wealth, but on his blog, he identifies himself as a member of ‘Middle India’. In a blog post in September 2011, when IAC’s electric moment had begun to cool down, he wrote, “For the first time in India’s history, people like us – middle class voters — are able and willing to play a role in shaping the country’s future. If we can focus on the right problem, we will come up with the right solution. The movement to punish the corrupt is a worthy one. But we have to realise that it does not end there. We have to move beyond that and root out corruption by understanding why public corruption exists. The major cause of corruption is bad governance and therefore the solution is good governance."

Jain had already identified the font of good governance. In 2010, he had written, “A friend remarked to me that corruption in India has now become a non-issue because everyone is corrupt. So, it has become socially acceptable. And people in Middle India sit by and watch their hard earnings looted away. We think we are alone and we cannot do anything. But one person did manage to change things in his state – without being corrupt.”

No prizes for guessing who Jain was talking about. “Narendra Modi’s Gujarat is a shining example of a state that has put integrity and development above everything else. And this is not just me saying it. During my travels in recent times, when I speak to people, they all unanimously hail what he has done for the state. 'If only we could get Modi to run the country for 5 years….' is the common refrain.”

In 2013, Jain signed up for the job of helping Modi get to the top post by influencing the urban middle class through internet and phone based campaigns. There has been speculation that Jain took not just his acumen and ideas to Modi’s campaign but also the database of IAC supporters created by his company. It is easy to see how a database of people fed up with corruption under the UPA could prove handy to the BJP.

In an email, however, Rajesh Jain denied that the BJP or any other organisation had access to the IAC database. “The database is the property of IAC...Netcore does not share databases,” he said.

But this has done little to allay the fears of AAP supporters. Amit Kumar, an IT engineer who works with HCL and volunteers part-time with AAP, said that he feared that the database created by IAC could be misused. “It is an open secret in the IT industry that data is difficult to protect,” he told “It is easy for data to be transferred to others.”

Dilip Pandey, an IT professional who quit a job in Hong Kong to join AAP and is currently a member of its screening committee, said, “Ideally and ethically, the database should not be shared. But it is true that data, specially phone numbers, are freely passed around in India.”

But was it ethical for AAP itself to use the IAC database since the movement had fractured on the question of whether or not to enter electoral politics? Pandey said the party took note of this ethical dilemma and sent out emails and texts to those on the IAC database to inform them about the formation of AAP and to give them the option to stay or opt out of the database. About 14 million people opted to stay. During the Delhi assembly elections, AAP used the database very effectively, enlisting volunteers, even those who lived abroad, to directly call people in Delhi to canvass for support. In the national elections, other parties are likely to follow AAP’s example.

The question is, could Balwant Singh end up getting a call from both Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal?