Pre-poll pole position? Picture abhi baaki hai!

Hold your tunes, NaMo & RaGa supporters as polls before polls could only be the trailer – often of the next movie coming up

shantanu

Shantanu Datta | January 28, 2014


Narendra Modi: will he be the chosen one?

If the general elections are here, can opinion polls and surveys be far behind? As winter threatens to pull back record early this season, it is spring time for poll-related polls and surveys. And as the election weather gathers heat, getting a fair idea of the change in season need not come from the meteorological men: the Congress could well be looking at a scorcher of a summer, parched of numbers in the next Lok Sabha and famished of mass support in all the key states – in both electorally important north and western India.

So despite Rahul Gandhi’s grandiose announcement on his first one-on-one television interview to Times Now on Monday (January 27) that the grand old party would win the coming general elections, poll after poll is predicting these days that the party is looking down the barrel, forecast to drown in a new, possibly record, low.

Last week saw three such polls. The India Today-CVoter survey found the ruling UPA notching up 98-108 seats, with the Congress tally hitting a wall at 91. The CSDS-CNN-IBN election tracker put it at 107-127 indicated that at the lower end, the party will win 152 of 450-odd seats spread over 13 states including Delhi. Congress may get 55-113 seats in these states. The worst forecast came in the ABP News-Nielsen survey, released over the weekend: the UPA was projected to get 101 seats and the grand old party a not so grand 81 – its worst ever.

Needless to say, all three forecast huge gains for the Narendra Modi-led BJP and the BJP-led national democratic alliance (NDA) – just for perspective, the corresponding figures for the NDA are 207-17 in India Today-CVoter survey, 211-231 forecast by CSDS-CNN-IBN and 226 in the ABP News-Nielsen poll.

Pre-election opinion polls being as reliable as Mumbai weather during monsoon, or visibility at Delhi airport during winter, one should, of course, take it with the proverbial pinch – nay, a fistful – of salt, despite the cheers and jeers already echoing in the respective opposing camps.

Take the timing first. The India Today poll gave, just to take one example, the Aam Aadmi Party 10 seats and was conducted between December 16, 2013 and January 16 this year – before AAP star and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal sat on his indefinite sit-in outside Delhi’s Rail Bhavan and called it off on the evening of the second day, after ostensibly copping much flak. Or take the ABP News survey, which gives 30 seats to the Left Front, including 13 in “south” India (read Kerala). The poll was conducted between December 28 last year and this January 12 – much before Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar was found dead on January 17, and a court in the same city awarded life term to 11 people, including three locally powerful CPM leaders in the murder of TP Chandrasekharan, a rebel leader of the party who was hacked to death in 2012.

As AAP’s phenomenal performance in Delhi elections in December, and the subsequent and sudden pan-India growth and the ensuing decline (even more sudden) more recently, has shown, you can ignore factors like credibility, image and the reach of social media, if not traditional media (this takes into account Kejriwal’s famous words in televised interviews that the AAP rose “despite the media, and not because of the media”). Now, how would the election surveys reposition the seat share if they are done again today?

One should factor in not only a state or two, for nouns like idea and image have a tendency to leave snowballing effect.

In cricket parlance, look at the timing, again: From here till the election is at least a full quarter. Who is to say how the 3 I’s of electoral politics – issues, ideas and images – will change in these three months and a bit more?

And with more interviews of the big leaders, like that of Rahul Gandhi this week, certain to come up in these sandwiched weeks, the mood and the pulse of the masses are set to do a bit of a yo-yo act, as the swinging fortunes after each presidential debate in the run-up to US elections tend to do. So what do you have in store, dear reader/voter? Time, and opportunities galore, to check and uncheck the boxes – for each party and its leader/s – before the big day comes calling.

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