Why election surveys have started losing their credibility ?

Predicting election results in a particular State Assembly or parliamentary polls was quite accurate till a few years ago.  It started losing its credibility after the sample survey pattern started getting vitiated and on many occasions, short cut methods started getting adopted.

The Congress has been depending a lot on these survey reports and Congress Spokespersons take pride in quoting those data and figures to create the “mahaul” for their party.

However, at least 5 survey reports on Bihar in October 2010 went haywire.  None of these big survey teams and companies who charged lakh of rupees had the inkling of the Congress party’s worst drubbing in Bihar since Independence. The Congress party leaders were gloating over the survey reports that the party would get 60 to 90 seats out of the total of 243 seats in Bihar. At the end, it could manage only 4 seats.

The Uttar Pradesh experience too, was more or less, the same.  At least 5 surveys painted a rosy picture of the Congress party’s gain. They suggested at least 70, 65, 60 seats for the Congress. Star Nelson was the only party which went to the extent of saying that SP would hit 215 mark. But all surveys went wrong on the actual number of seats. No survey could gauge the voter’s mood with regards to its attitude and response towards the Congress party which ended up getting just 28 seats out of the total of 403 seats.

The recent experience of Himachal and Meghalaya has been more or less accurate. But the predictions with regard to both Tripura and Nagaland went off the mark. Some survey reports gave Congress party at least 30 seats in Tripura while 25 seats in Nagaland. At the end, the Congress party ended getting 10 seats in both the States. !!

A funny trend

One of the most unfortunate parts has been the commissioning of surveys by a few Congress party leaders themselves. The purpose behind that has been to grab more seats for their supporter groups.This was seen in Uttar Padesh where at least 6 different groups of Congress leaders engineered surveys to please the party high command and all of them failed.

The elections also become a 5 yearly festival for a few” survey firms and companies” which make tailor made reports to suit masters and prove a few points.

In smaller states, they maintain their relevance because 1/10th sample does give a sense of direction about the voters’ mood and their inclination. But in larger states like Uttar Pradesh and others, their samples and prescriptions become that of a quack than of an expert.

The main reason is, dishonesty in the samples. Those boys and girls who are entrusted with the job of sample connection, don’t venture out in the heat and cold, to the far flung areas and get the exact feedback.  Instead, they would sit in some cozy corners and “fabricate and manufacture” those data.

Yet another factor is the pattern of sample questions itself. The sample questions for Himachal Pradesh for example, can not be the same for Karnataka whose ethics and ethos, tenor and temperament is entirely different.

The Congress party appears to have fallen in the same pit all over again. There have been at least four surveys ( Kannada Prabha- C voter, TV-9 C-four, Tehelka,  Headlines Today and C Voter and the latest is the TOI  survey). All of them have given the Congress party more than 120 seats.

However, no survey has been able to assess the mood of the voters after the ticket distribution is over because that plays a very huge role in ascertaining the fate of any political party and giving a clear indication of its winning/losing chances.

A very interesting part of most of these surveys in Karnataka has been the highest popularity of CLP Leader Sidharamaih. The fact however remains that he remains one of the most hated politicians for his disparaging remarks and curt behavior.  Vijay Karnataka survey gave him 21 percent popularity while KPCC President Dr G Parmeshwar remained on 1 percent. This survey, smacked of malafide intentions.  It was later found out that the survey too was in the mode of ‘paid news’ syndrome.

The Karnataka elections would be the first litmus test for Rahul Gandhi as the Congress vice-president. His team of “ data bank wizards’ have taken the view that the ability of the Congress to unerringly choose the wrong candidates is the “huge information gap “between the  ground reality at the grass root level and the decision making in Delhi.

The solution, suggested by his techno wizard advisers has been the use of technology to reduce the glaring gap through “data gathering”. Perhaps, they have not told him that the large quantities of date thrown into those lap tops and palm tops are wayward and uneven and at the end, they have turned out to be more like a “garbage dump”.

Rahul Gandhi also fixed certain criterion for getting party nomination for the candidates. He wanted them to be first shortlisted at the district level. Quite a noble thought this.. But his commanders bungled at the end. Most of those guidelines were thrown to the winds.

At Jaipur AICC Conclave, he had touched upon the anomaly in ticket distribution saying “ that leaders from other parties parachute in just before the elections and fly away after getting defeated.”

Yet he could not stop at least 9 such parachuters who are contesting on Congress ticket in Karnataka.

Secondly, Rahul Gandhi also insisted at Jaipur that no person with a criminal background should be given party ticket. Yet he could not stop at least 13 such Congress candidates from jumping into the poll fray.

Third,  he had also pointed out that the” Congress party had decided not to field candidates whose defeat margin was more than 15,000 votes. In the present list of 224 candidates, there are 17 such candidates who have lost by margin of over 20,000 votes and yet given party nomination.

Fourth, Rahul Gandhi had also opposed the idea of giving Congress ticket to kit and kin of senior party leaders. Yet kit and kin of six Senior Congress leaders got ticket. The only exception was Union Minister KH Muniappa’s daughter who was denied ticket while all others were accommodated.

Fifth, Rahul Gandhi had proposed to give good representation to Youth Congress in Karnataka by at least fielding 20 candidates. But he could barely manage to get 4/5 candidates from the Youth wing. The best part was that the State Youth Congress President Rizwan Arshad was denied a ticket and that prompted him to resign from his post as well.

Sixth, Rahul Gandhi by virtue of being the Vice President of the party and  a member of  Ms Sonia Gandhi-headed Central Election Committee(CEC) to finalize the list of candidates, did not even once attend the meeting.

Obviously, he has put his faith on both Madhusudan Mistry( Gujarat fame) and  Luizinho Falerio( Tripura and Nagaland fame) apart from the experience and wisdom of Union Minister Veerappa Moily to sell him through Karnataka polls and bring the party back to power after a gap of 9 years.

However, what Rahul Gandhi’s experts have not told him that” technical date alone’ don’t win elections. They can be a guide post if they are genuine and given an indication of the basic pointers. The rest has to be followed by a pragmatic thinking and logical follow-up action along with the feedback from the Taluka level . The final course of action is planned only after mixing and matching those inputs and ingredients. Even a small miscalculation in the poll arithmetic leads to disaster.

Rahul Gandhi’s experts don’t seem to value the long field experience of many senior congress leaders and instead, depend upon the computer and its data. This is a dangerous approach. A compute can tell about the best variety of seed and pests available for a bumper crop in a particular kind of soil but it would not go to plant those seeds in the field on its own.. !!

The Congress vice president seems to have done the same mistake by appointing new PCC Chiefs in Punjab, Himachal and Bihar through the same approach and the same saga appears to be continuing in Karnataka as well.

At this rate, the dream of wresting power back from the BJP in Karnataka looks quite a tall order. It would not only be a huge challenge personally for Rahul Gandhi but also decide the political future of  Madhusudan Mistry as well as Luizinho Falerio as  his lucky mascots. !!!!


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