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

ELECTIONS, NOTA AND QUESTIONS OF AN ELEVEN YEAR OLD

I was watching coverage of Delhi election on TN news channels this morning when my 11 year old niece came to sit by me. It clearly meant I needed to be ready answering questions that she would be picking up from the content.

I have become used to and enjoy it. Sometimes, there are no answers. Sometimes, there cannot be answers. Sometimes, I don’t know the answers. But, thankfully, most of the times, I am able to answer her to her and my satisfaction.

Sometimes, she asks questions that transcend the age boundaries leaving me thinking for a long time as I know how relevant the question is and how desperately the society needs to find the answer. Today was one such day with the questions she asked. Some of the questions were:

Should anyone who doesn’t find any candidate in the fray worthy go with ‘None of the Above/ NOTA option (yes, she was aware of it thanks again to these rounds of questions and answers) or he should go with the best of the lot?

But if we don’t find anyone worthy, why should we compromise, why shouldn’t we go with NOTA?

What if more people opt for NOTA than any other candidate?

What if all the votes cast in a constituency go to NOTA?

What if all the votes except a small share, say in the range of 5% go to NOTA?

Now, we all who are politically aware have thought over and discuss the first three questions.

But, even the last two are not irrelevant, even if repetitive in tone. And the last three may sound utopian given the state of affairs of the Indian politics of the day, but certainly push us to think.

How would our prevailing electoral system handle such crisis points?

Would the moral constraints give way to the constitutional framework where NOTA gets larger or equal vote share, the second one?

What would happen of Indian politics, Indian society and India if the electoral response gets to these extreme outcomes, the last three?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE THREE CARDINAL (BUT LARGELY INEFFECTIVE) POINTS OF EC’S RULEBOOK

With the Election Commission (EC) of India announcing the poll schedule of the 2014 General Elections (GE 2014) today, the model code of conduct has come into force with the immediate effect. The long list of EC’s do’s and dont’s, though, on a whole, fails to discipline the politicians, has certain favourites prioritized on the lips of the election commissioners whenever they enumerate the measures to make the elections free and fair.

Major among them are controlling the flow of money beyond the stipulated limit, disciplining the politicians on their personal conduct against other politicians and disciplining the politicians on making sky-high promises to the electorate.

And therefore, like always, the Election Commission has reiterated the three cardinal points:

Politicians should not make unrealistic promises/unachievable claims.

Politicians should not target each other with unsubstantiated allegations.

The contestants must follow the threshold of poll spending, adding another clause this time to submit details of foreign accounts and assets.

Now, based on the flow of the history and the precedents set, we all know what is going to happen (BJP-AAP violent clash outside BJP’s Delhi office today is just a glimpse of it):

When it comes to making promises, Indian politicians are the unmatched achievers who religiously follow the age-old saying of the sages that ‘impossible is a word that doesn’t exist in the dictionary of achievers’.

  • They ascetically believe that ‘achieving’ means ‘making promises to extort votes’ by making promises look as grand and fabulous as possible.

The war of words that has already reached to juicier levels is slated to scale the deafening heights. The limits of acceptable parliamentary behavior that were already made irrelevant years ago will get even more humiliating treatment.

  • The dictionary of unparliamentarily/abusive/derogatory is scheduled to get more comprehensive and enriched by May 10, 2014 when the campaigning for the last phase of GE-2014 (on May 12) ends.

‘Who spends what’ and ‘who should spend what’ – it has been an evergreen point of rift between the politicians and the regulators, with politicians consistently outdoing the Election Commission. And this foreign accounts and assets clause is not going to be of any use as such accounts and assets are maintained to stash the black money away from the regulatory clutches and identities are either kept secret or are outsourced to others.

So, be ready for the final push of the political assault that began with the five state assembly polls in the last quarter of 2013.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/