If the track record of opinion polls in India of the various elections is taken into account, the embarrassingly minimal success factor should be enough to ensure that these outfits shut shop and do something else more credible.
No doubt some of the opinion predictors have got it right some time. But never has one outfit been successful all the time. Neither has one outfit been wrong all the time. In other words, it is a gamble. Get it right and you have something to crow about. Get it wrong and you hide under the carpet.
Not one, for instance, was able to predict the thrashing the Aam Aadmi Party gave its seasoned opponents – the Congress and the BJP – in the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections. So too the huge victory that the BJP scored in the Uttar Pradesh polls last year. While the pollsters envisioned the BJP as the single largest party or a victor in one case, none could predict the two-thirds win it achieved.
The other red-faced moment for pollsters was the Bihar Assembly elections where no one could predict the resounding victory of the Lalu-Nitish-Congress Grand Alliance. Yes, there were some who said that the Grand Alliance could edge out the BJP and its allies, but not to the extent of the final victory.
The latest in the opinion polls that come out of Karnataka indicates that the Congress is a frontrunner in most surveys. One of the early surveys C-Fore, reportedly ordered by the Congress party, has given the party more seats than in the previous assembly election of 2013, which means a comfortable majority on its own. The others say the Congress is going to be the single largest party in a hung assembly. None has predicted an outright win for the BJP. One poll published by ABP foresees the BJP as the single largest party. This pollster has predicted that the Janata Dal (Secular) will retain all the seats it won in the previous elections, that is, 40. The rest have scaled down the seats that the JD(S) will get. Most of the newly released surveys have predicted a hung assembly in Karnataka, which is flattering for the JD(S) as it will then become a kingmaker. More importantly, it will prevent the party from sliding into oblivion.
If a sample of the past elections are taken, it indicates that pollsters are not immune from the political situation around them. For instance, when a survey indicates results that probably do not gel with the preconceived notions of the management team, the safer way of interpreting the findings is to state that a hung assembly is the outcome. Safe because in the event of one party getting a majority on its own, it will not seem like a major gaffe. Or, it is better than backing one party and finding that another has won.
Election campaigns so far have not changed the ground situation in Karnataka
The election scenario in Karnataka indicates that nothing has really changed since the campaign began about a month ago. The Congress under the leadership of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has continued to project its rule since 2013 as an example of stability, efficient administration and of relative calm, compared to the five years of BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa preceding it. Not just that, Siddaramaiah has set the agenda for the ongoing elections in the form of the Lingayat issue and his actions in favour of Kannada nationalism.
As for the BJP, there is nothing to show that anything has changed since it governed Karnataka between 2008-13. Yes, it has projected Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah as the new elements, but what difference that will make to Karnataka is not clear.
As for the Janata Dal (Secular), it is even more in the grip of the Deve Gowda family with accompanying filial feud and a neglect of its loyal supporters and legislators that could cost it dear in the elections.
The moot point in this context is how the voters are looking at the situation. The opinion polls, at least, can be used to hype the chances of a political party, but whether it will work is anyone’s guess.
The writer is an independent journalist based in Bangalore
Reverted to original article on April 26 at 3 pm