Exit polls should please the Congress

Deccan Chronicle - - Edit -

Un­til not so long ago re­sults of exit polls were deemed un­re­al­is­tic. Polling tech­niques have im­proved since, and sam­ple sizes have grown big­ger. On that ba­sis, in the just ended elec­tions to five states — in­clud­ing the cru­cial Hindi heart­land states of Ra­jasthan, Mad­hya Pradesh and Ch­hat­tis­garh, be­sides Te­lan­gana and Mi­zo­ram — the Congress has rea­son to be op­ti­mistic and the BJP cause for in­tro­spec­tion. And yet, these polls need to be treated with cau­tion. In their pro­jec­tions poll­sters tend to be cau­tious and do not al­ways let the full force of the raw data speak. They of­ten make al­lowances of cer­tain kinds on ac­count of po­lit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ties of in­flu­en­tial forces.

In light of this it is sur­pris­ing that all the polls con­ducted at the end of the vot­ing on Fri­day speak of a clear Congress vic­tory in Ra­jasthan, which saw a prac­ti­cally bipo­lar con­test be­tween the rul­ing BJP and the chal­lenger Congress. A nearly straight­for­ward fight be­tween two par­ties makes it sta­tis­ti­cally less cum­ber­some to an­a­lyse. In Te­lan­gana too, most poll­sters pre­dict a clear vic­tory for the rul­ing TRS, the state’s rul­ing party, although there are more than two par­ties in the fray here.

In Mad­hya Pradesh and Ch­hat­tis­garh, most polls sug­gest that the race could be close but the Congress ap­pears to be in with a chance. Mad­hya Pradesh was a bipo­lar af­fair for the most part be­tween the rul­ing BJP and the Congress, and in Ch­hat­tis­garh there was a mi­nor com­pli­ca­tion in the shape of the Ajit Jogi-Mayawati com­bi­na­tion in an oth­er­wise bipo­lar race. In Mi­zo­ram, the MNF seems ahead of the two-time in­cum­bent Congress, with the BJP be­ing a mi­nor pres­ence.

Since exit polls re­flect the vot­ers’ mood on the ba­sis of in­ter­views af­ter bal­lots are cast, they do of­fer some ba­sis for anal­y­sis. How­ever, the post-vot­ing sur­veys are not con­cerned with the be­hav­iour of elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines (EVMs), whether on ac­count of foul play or gen­uine glitches. This cre­ates room for a caveat as far as the poll­sters’ ef­forts go. In Mad­hya Pradesh, for in­stance, videos were go­ing around of trans­port ve­hi­cles with­out num­ber plates car­ry­ing EVMs af­ter the vot­ing to a ho­tel owned by a BJP min­is­ter. This gave ground for sus­pi­cion. While this par­tic­u­lar case was de­tected, we do not know if there were other sim­i­lar in­stances that went un­de­tected in Mad­hya Pradesh or other states.

If exit polls are on the mark, the po­lit­i­cal mean­ing is ev­i­dent — that the BJP will face a gen­uine chal­lenge from the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha elec­tion. The TINA fac­tor (“there is no al­ter­na­tive” to the BJP) has been over­come.

If exit polls are on the mark, the BJP will face a gen­uine chal­lenge from the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha elec­tion. The TINA fac­tor (‘there is no al­ter­na­tive’ to the BJP) has been over­come.

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