ENARADA, New Delhi
By AJAY N JHA
The political spectrum in India has undergone a sea change in last 10 days with following features:
1. The Modi – mania has been catching up people across the country at a much faster rate than many believed. Right from Ahmadabad to Arunachal Pradesh and from Kashmir to kanyakumari, the support for Modi is palpable, however the Congress party leaders don’t want to believe that.
2. Congress Vice- President Rahul Gandhi has started evolving as a leader. His attacks on Modi have been more pointed and mature than what one could see in last 3 months. That means, he has seriously started preparing for his 2019 agenda from now itself.
3. The Congress party appears to have unleashed its “Priyanka Gandhi” weapon at a wrong time and wrong place. Her virulent attack against Varun Gandhi. The Talisman around her name appears to have started melting as she stepped out of the confines of Amethi and Rae Bareli and instead of hitting at BJP, She started firing salvos on her cousin brother for daring to enter Sultanpur which was known as the pocket borough of the Gandhis.
4. The BJP appears to have already made a serious dent in Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal which may accrue a significant number of seats this time.
5. Modi has been unrelenting in launching a frontal attack on the Gandhis and appears to have spared Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, thanks to two books released at the same time (written by Sanjaya Baru and PC Parakh respectively) which would account for at least 30 odd Lok Sabha seats to the Congress party.
6. Both these books have tried to establish that it was Congress President Sonia Gandhi who did the aback-seat driving in UPA-II. While she welded authority sans any responsibility, Dr Manmohan Singh was saddled with all the responsibility sans authority. That was quite vividly demonstrated in PC Parakh’s book titled Crusader or Conspirator whose account, tried to prove the point that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was a total failure in prevailing upon his cabinet colleagues who ran amuck in allocating coal blocks for extraneous considerations.
7. Above all, Narendra Modi has proved that ‘a lion does not lose his sleep on the opinion of the sheep’ through his focused campaign against the Gandhi and has been successful to a great extent, in demolishing the hallow of the Gandhi family through a series of pincer attacks in the choicest idioms and sobriquets.
8. The propaganda warfare through social media and the level and extent of vitriol poured in poll arena by political leaders of almost all major political parties against each other has reached the lowest ebb. This could perhaps be the dirtiest election war where no hold barred kind of statements have been issued, leaving the public totally appalled and flabbergasted.
9. Apart from facebook and twitter, whats app has been the deadliest weapon unleashed by political parties and their leaders in tearing and tattering the image and credibility of their rivals.
More than that however, the results of this election is going to give a rude shock to many pollsters and political pundits who have been carrying the ‘indirect political agendas’ of a few parties through their regular surveys and calculations. Their projections and presumptions have already started giving goose bumps to those who have been writing Modi off as a mimicking Minion.
By many indications, it looks quite probable that some of the projections of those “didn’t I tell this then” opinion poll conductors and orchestras may go seriously wrong on May 16th.If the results of the last two elections are any guide, the chances are that they will be wrong.
For example, the two main opinion polls that have made their final calculations, NDTV-Hansa and Lokniti-CSDS-CNN-IBN, give the NDA 275 and 234-246 seats respectively. Since the latter poll excludes the Telugu Desam – an alliance stitched together after the surveys were completed – the chances are that its total for the NDA will also rise to around 250-260. That’s just a hop, step and jump away from a majority.
Many congress spokespersons have been pointing out that opinion polls have been wrong in the past, and so they will be this time. Some of the Congress leaders have been saying in private conversations that their party would be getting nothing less than 140 seats.
However, getting the final results horribly wrong and getting the incipient trends wrong are two different things. Where the opinion polls have failed in the past is in projecting much higher seats from emerging trends, especially late trends. They usually do not fail to report the beginnings of a trend. Since seat counts change dramatically on 3-5 percent swings, late swings are particularly hard to detect and that too when actual voting decisions are taken by swing voters barely 72 to 48 hours before the polling actually begins.
The second area they fail to gauge is the impact of regional alliances. In 2004, for example, the final opinion polls gave the NDA a clear victory. Star News-CVoter gave the alliance 267-279. India Today-ORG 282, and NDTV-IE-Nielsen 287-307. The final figures were 185 for the BJP and allies and 275 for Congress and allies. Most of these surveys based their opinion on the” possible impact of India shining’ which actually went in reverse for BJP and the NDA. These opinion polls also caught the Congress’ late surge of 3-4 percent, and the BJP’s slippage, but failed to calculate its magnitude in terms of seat gains and losses.
The same was the case with in 2009, where many pollsters got it wrong. Most polls saw the Congress slipping, and the BJP rising. While Star News-Nielsen gave the Congress plus allies 203, TheWeek-CVoter gave Congress 234, CNN-IBN 185-205, and India TV-CVoter 189-201. The result: 262 to Congress+, and 159 for BJP-plus. At the end,the pollsters were defeated by the Indian voter who proved these “wise” people “otherwise”.
Perhaps, why pollsters got their facts and figures wrong was because of two reasons. As a veteran commentator wrote” One was the failure to catch a rising or falling trend early enough to project where a mini-wave will lead; and two, a failure to see who will lose if one party can gain. If we see the Indian political landscape as having three broad players – two national parties, and at least one major regional player in each major state – the net result of the elections will depend on both the relative rise or fall of the main parties, and the relative rise or fall of the national party vis-à-vis regional allies. Right or wrong alliances can make all the difference. Also, the relative performance of a national party in areas traditionally dominated by regional parties can unexpectedly impact the overall results.”
Under these circumstances, the portents for 2014 polls was more clear than what was present in both 2004 and 2009.The public mood is, by and large, against the Congress and in favour of the BJP wherever these two parties are in direct contention. Even where the BJP is contending with regional parties, the trend is towards the BJP or BJP-led alliances, but not in all states.
The biggest challenge for the pollsters this time would perhaps be Tamil Nadu where a totally new kind of alliance has been forged out by BJP to pitch-fork both DMK and AIADMK. On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are iffy, given the emergence of third and fourth players, including regional players.
Secondly, the voters of India have become more decisive in their verdict during the last 4 years that has been amply visible in State Assembly elections where barring the sole aberration in Delhi, they have given a decisive mandate in favor of BJP or the Congress.
In this round of Lok Sabha polls, the ballet lines on the set of issues are already drawn and the Modi’s popularity has been growing by every day and it is this trend towards the NDA may accentuate immensely as polling day nears. The chances are the surge towards NDA is being underestimated and at the end, the NDA may actually outperform the pollsters by going way beyond their expectations. There is a huge possibility that the NDA alliance may finally end up getting 300 and even 320 plus seats. The only way this can be wrong is if the BJP has got its regional alliances wrong.
That is the unknown X factor in these polls. Yet some of its symptoms can be clearly visible. In Andhra Pradesh for example, TDP may surprise its rivals while the BJP’s “rainbow alliance” may not get as many number of seats as projected or expected.
But there would be some grey areas like Odisha and West Bengal where the final result may even go beyond BJP’s own calculations. Or maybe the North-East which may spring a few surprises.
The bottom-line is that no poll pollster has been able to gauge the floating and swing voters mind early on and it is that factor which makes a significant difference in the final poll count. At a time when the entire nation seems to earning for a change and in that context, the growing “Modi mania” or “Namoinitis” may prove to be fatal for the Congress party’s health in near future.
(Posted on April 16, 2014 @ 10:45 pm)
(Ajay N Jha is a veteran journalist from both Print and Electronic media. He is Advisor to Prasar Bharti. The views expressed are his personal. His email id is Ajay N Jha <firstname.lastname@example.org> )
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