DEMONETIZATION IS A RELEVANT EXAMPLE TO UNDERSTAND WHY EXIT POLLS FAIL IN INDIA

Demonetisation has been equalled with a demon that has sort of ruined ordinary lives in India. Its opponents have been vocal from the day 1, when prime minister Narendra Modi announced the move on November 8, 2016. The move has been widely panned even outside India.

If we go for the proponents and supporters of it, they are certainly outnumbered by the huge army of anti-demonetisation voices. The government has got some good voices, with many economics experts on its side, but they fall short of the outreach demonetisation opponents enjoy.

And they have compelling factors behind it.

Like endless problems faced by people during the last three months of demonetisation that not only affected their daily lives but also proved a nightmare for family functions, be it parties, anniversaries or weddings! Everything went haywire. Dozens died in bank queues. Many committed suicide out of despair. You were treated like a thief or culprit to claim even your hard earned money. The pain has been so deep that even the government had to accept it. People’s plight forced even many pro-demonetisation voices to question its messy implementation.

These were quite compelling factors to make an ideal case where the BJP would face complete rout in every upcoming electoral battle in the demonetisation aftermath.

But it didn’t happen. There was no aftermath on this front.

Civic polls are the primary interface in our electoral system where the smallest units of our legislature, Panchayat institutions, at village, block and district levels, elect their representatives. Theoretically, demonetisation pangs were thought to be most severe for people at the bottom of the pyramid in our society, people in our villages, towns and small cities, people who vote in our civic polls.

But post demonetisation, the BJP has won civic polls in three states, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and most recently in Maharashtra where it registered a stellar victory by winning 8 out of 10 municipal corporations. In Odisha, the party displaced Congress to emerge as the main opposition and threat to the ruling BJD. Besides, the BJP also won local bodies polls and bypolls in Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Faridabad.

Theoretically, it should never have happened. These voters should have rejected the BJP en masse.

But, practically, it didn’t happen. These poll outcomes show the voters have, in fact, shown increased faith in the BJP government after the demonetisation move, a paradox to all the misery demonetisation brought.

The pundits, experts, analysts, politicians, activists and people are scratching their heads in trying to understand how this is happening. It is proving a black-hole for them.

In fact, this mindset is representative of our society which has multiple layers, something that makes it a tough nut to crack for any political party or marketer or social campaign. Most of the times it proves a black-hole. In spite of social media and internet advances, India is still not in public domain where researchers/marketers/surveyors can sift through the metadata and big data to assess society’s preferences for a brand, be a commercial brand or a social ones like demonetisation or our politicians .

And the task becomes almost impossible when it comes to gauge people’s mood on who should represent them politically. Obviously, the ‘why’ of it is inherent to the ‘who’ of it. That is the underlying reason exit polls fail in India. The pollsters don’t have data to read into people’s mind, their preferences and habits. And almost of them don’t go beyond few pockets to complete their surveys. So, the extract, based on which they make their final projections is always ‘undone’ or sketchy. And when it happens so, luck becomes the central character in bridging this telling gap between reality and ‘projection’. And we all know most of the times this ‘telling gap’ remains there to tell its tales once the chaos subsides.

©SantoshChaubey

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