Crowd turnout in election rallies is not a safe parameter to gauge the mood of voters
Deevakar Anand | October 20, 2014
I have always doubted the genuineness of the ‘audience-poll’ lifeline that Amitabh Bachchan gives his ‘hot-seat’ participant at his popular quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). I question the authenticity of the practice when the participant decides his answer on the basis of what the majority of the audience present at the show chooses to be the right answer.
How could you rely on what the majority may seem to think is right – especially when it is a heterogeneous group of people with different backgrounds – students, professionals, housewives and others?
In the first week of October, during one of his campaigns in Haryana’s Jind, which was thronged by thousands of frenzied supporters wherever he went, when I asked the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader and Hissar MP Dushyant Chautala how will he derive how many from the crowd would actually convert into votes for his party, he sounded somewhat dismissive of the very question I raised.
“It is for you to see,” he said, pointing towards a few supporters, who in an attempt to just wave a hand at the 26-year-old Chautala scion, almost fell on his slowly moving Toyota Fortuner’s broad bonnet. Not only that, one of his supporters broke his SUV’s side view mirror; perhaps that was a strong sign of loyalty. Or was it not?
Only a week before, at a rally in Jind itself, INLD patriarch Om Prakash Chautala (the former state chief minister, who is currently serving a jail term in the junior basic teachers (JBT) recruitment scam), out from Tihar jail on bail had attracted over a lakh supporters, which had brought the small town to a standstill, throwing traffic out of gear in the radius of four kilometres of the venue ground.
Before Sunday, when Haryana assembly election results were announced, Dushyant and many others, including a few journalists and political commentators believed that INLD was going to be a major contender for the next government in the state.
However, it has turned out that Dushyant lost the Uchana Kalan assembly seat from Jind, held by senior Chautala and INLD which was hoping to form a government in the 90-member assembly on its own was able to bag just 20 seats.
The crowd turnout in the election rallies is not a safe parameter to gauge the mood of the voters, the latest Haryana elections being a test case in that regard.
In Haryana, not only Chautala (considered a heavyweight leader) drew huge crowds but so did an even more tainted leader Gopal Kanda, the former minister of state for home in the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government, and an accused in the air hostess Geetika Sharma suicide case.
At the launch of his newly-formed outfit Haryana Lokhit Party in Gurgaon earlier this year; his supporters had thronged the old city area. In the election results announced on Sunday, Kanda, however, lost from Sirsa seat and most of the other candidates of his party lost deposits.
Sure, one may ask that the Modi rallies got huge crowds too and BJP catapulted itself from four MLAs to 47 in this election. But BJP deserves acknowledgement for looking beyond crowd managements in its rallies and investing more on research and strategic alliances.
Where parties such as INLD relied more on sympathy wave for OP Chautala, thinking he being in jail for giving jobs to Jats would bring him back to power; BJP looked for more tangible benefits it could draw.
It successfully solicited the support of Dera Sacha Sauda, a religious sect of the Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh fame that has lakhs of followers in the state, especially in Sirsa region bordering Punjab.
Besides managing crowds, BJP also played its Modi brand development card quite well.
Getting a huge crowd in political rallies has become more like an event management where participants are sometimes drawn in lieu of money and liquor. Besides, an average poor villager and an unemployed youth (which our politicians through their misgovernance have created in good number) find it worthwhile to hop on to a party vehicle free of cost, taking a joy ride to the rally, which includes good food.
Thankfully, voters in India are smart and get the better of the politicians in this game. While they may seem to root for somebody, they vote for whoever they like to.