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“Exit” polls and basic instinct

– by SANJAY JHA

5 pm sharp. It was quite dramatic actually. The very moment the momentous ( that’s the safest cliché to employ) elections 2009 came to a moderately-participated end, TV channels were ready to give us their pent-up, secretly kept, officially asphyxiated exit poll or post-poll surveys. Across channels, the drama ensued, with every show anchor on a ballistic binge, participating guests looking suitably grave and portending analytical expressions, and graphic images screaming new arithmetical formulations. It was heavy-duty brain haemorrhage. I am keen to know how the TRPs of English and Hindi news channels will compare with the never-ending IPL based on yesterday’s teaser trailer to the biggie spectacle of Saturday.

As a former banker who has seen his erstwhile several colleagues (investment bankers and portfolio analysts top this dubious category) make a classic fool of themselves over the last year, I have developed a cold cynicism to mathematical models. One , because, only a few comprehend their stupid inanities and endless assumptions. Second, they are usually incorrect. If you don’t believe me, let me do a quick recap of 2004 exit surveys.

Exit Poll Forecasts 2004 Lok Sabha Elections
Channel/Agency
NDA
Congress+
Others

Aajtak
ORG -MARG
248
190
105

NDTV
AC Nielsen
230-250
190-205
100-120

Sahara
DRS
263-278
171-181
92-102

Star News
C-Voter
263-275
174-186
86-98

Zee News
Taleem
249
176
117

Average
255
183
105

Final Result
187
219
137

Difference
(Result-Forecast)
-68
+36
+32

Pre-2004 elections, an NDTV-Indian Express opinion poll had predicted that the Congress would hit a new record of 98 seats, while a cocky grin spread over the face of the late Pramod Mahajan. Now if that was not like a Titanic sinking, what was? It is heartening to note that after the disastrous humbling of 2004, after every sentence, we get a statutory warning from TV news presenters “ The error rate could be anywhere between 25-50%”— thank you very much for such a reliable statistical model! The other safety net is “ The great ( meaning unpredictable) Indian voter is difficult to read”. You bet !

The age of complex derivatives confounding investors is over; it is the return of the old-fashioned instinct. In election analysis, a similar return is required, no matter what.

Since I felt rather left out of the psephologist congregations ( despite possessing a philosophical countenance and mid-sized gray beard) , I am adding my own small pouch of ingredients to the forecast cauldron, but you will have to trust me, that the scribbled numbers were done as early as the beginning of May. My better half, who is one of my most vocal critics ( am assuming that applies to several macho stalwarts) will bear testimony to that.

So here goes; it is time to say “Exit” Polls, “Entry” Instinct.

Given below is my forecast for the Congress Party—not the UPA, BJP or the others, such as Third Front. It is so singularly focused, because it believes the residual combinations will be a function of how the largest single party fares.

CONGRESS PARTY PERFORMANCE IN 2009 ELECTIONS

Haryana 5
Punjab 6
J&K 2
Uttarakhand 2
UP 12
Bihar 3
Assam 5
Arunacha 1
Sikkim 0
Meghalaya 1
Nagaland 0
Tripura 0
Mizoram 0
Manipur 1
West Bengal 7
Orissa 9
Jharkhand 4
Andhra 15
Karnataka 12
Tamil Nadu 8
Kerala 10
Goa 1
Chattisgarh 4
Maharashtra 14
MP 12
Rajasthan 18
Delhi 5
Gujarat 8
Himachal 2
Union Terrties 3

GRAND TOTAL: 170
Error Rate –5%
Average Minimum Seats expected: 164

CLOSING COMMENTS:

The Congress will be the single largest party.
It’s partners will include:
DMK—10
TMC—-11
RJD-LJP—11
SP———-20
JMM——– 2
NCP——–13

TOTAL—–67
Error Rate—5%
Average Minimum Expected:- 62

GRAND UPA: 226 seats ( minimum)

OUTSIDE SUPPORT:
Left Parties: CPM, CPI etc: 38

TOTAL : 264

Scenario 1 : It is possible that Congress and partners get 170+67=237. If that happens, they will need ONLY the support of Left parties.

Scenario 2 : If Congress plus allies get minimum seats instead at 226 , then they will need at least 1 more partner.

The shortfall will be just 8 seats ( assuming TMC and Left support UPA together)
This could be through either/ or :
BJD
Nitish Kumar-JDU ( in lieu of RJD-LJP)
Anna DMK in lieu of DMK
Odd assortments like PMK will return to UPA
To balance out Mamata-Left issue, TMC should be in government and the Left supporting from the outside. Or vice versa.

Why the BJP will not be able to form the government ?
It is unlikely to get more than 135-40 seats as a single party. It will need 135-140 seats from allies; most unlikely. For the BJP to form the government, it will need to have approximately 155 seats on its own.

After the Varun Gandhi-Mayawati spat over NSA, Mayawati will be committing political suicide if she were to back BJP.
Even Naveen Patnaik will not risk a quick return to BJP; it can have a negative impact on his party in Orissa.

It’s biggest hopes will be TDP in Andhra, and Anna DMK in TN. But neither AP nor TN will have an anti-incumbency wave. In both Andhra and Tamil Nadu we will get a fractured verdict.

For the BJP the only chance will be an anti-incumbency “wave” in AP and TN; if that happens, they will be willing to make Mayawati a Deputy PM.

Let us see what wins; mathematical models or basic instinct?

2 Comments on “Exit” polls and basic instinct

  1. Election result is hang parliment only. Both Congress and BJP will not got the clear majority. So kindly forget all differences and old stories and think goods future for our Nation. So kindly form a government of BJP & Congress unitedly.

    From PM Congreess then Deputy PM post is for BJP
    From Cabinet Minister BJP then the State Minister Congress.

    I am not telling about Common Minimum Programme. Kindly sit and talk within in the party and go to the good governance. We the people need only good governance.

  2. Let’s think & talk something which is possible. How come two parties, until a week ago was out to grab one another’s throat, sit on the same side? No…. no …. this combination will crash land before applying “full throttle”.

    (NB: This is in response to the comment of Mr.R.Ramesh:)

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