So surveys projecting this party as the most probable winner are being bandied about recklessly, much as a professional surveyor will tell you it is humanly impossible to visit all the homes of the target sample of the electorate in a matter of a few hours. Though the numbers are all dubious, even seasoned journalists cannot see through the game
“Free WiFi poll promise is a masterstroke by Kejriwal” writes Shekhar Gupta, one of India’s most well-known editors and columnists analyzing Delhi election scenario. “the AAP may be headed for a landslide victory in Delhi” is the title of another column by the redoubtable R Jagannathan last week. Switch on any of the television news channels and every second political commentator (or news anchor) is talking about how “BJP is jittery” and why “Kiran Bedi strategy has backfired”. Then there are those opinion makers who insinuate that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is once again taking recourse to Modi’s rallies as the party’s campaign is faltering, before adding breathlessly that the Prime Minister’s rallies are witnessing unenthusiastic crowds. A commentator even analyzed in the TV studios about how little sound of claps he could hear during a Modi speech!
The overwhelming media narrative of the last few days has been that Delhi has chosen the Aam Aadmi Party, and the BJP is struggling to stay relevant in this election. It is common knowledge by now that the Dilli media brigade has been feeling powerless for almost a year, ever since the Modi juggernaut began to roll out in the winter of 2013-14; therefore, this is the opportune moment to strike back and the editorial class is lapping it up. Delhi being an exclusively urban city-state and the backyard of almost the entire spectrum of mainstream media powerhouses, it is but natural for the former darbaris to pull their weight. Delhi is one state where the media can try and humble the unstoppable duo of Modi-Shah who are otherwise on course to render the entire editorial class irrelevant.
The predicted victory of the AAP in Delhi is supposed to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of the Lutyens brigade wherein the overwhelming narrative of the media is supposed to influence the electoral outcome. To back some of these fantastic claims, news channels have commissioned some very dubious poll surveys that come up with astonishing numbers at a short notice. Snap polls conducted in the span of a few hours have started throwing such bizarre percentages that one wonders how blatant can this murky race get.
As a small time pollster, we at 5Forty3datalabs find it hard to believe that any meaningful survey can be conducted even in a city like Delhi within two days, let alone within a few hours, for it is humanly impossible to visit all the homes of the target sample of the electorate unless the interviewee to respondent ratio is 3:10 which would make such surveys prohibitively expensive besides the fact that finding so many trained fieldworkers would be near impossible. For instance, if we have a sample-size of 3,000, the number of fieldworkers required to conduct a door-to-door survey of decent spread within a day would be as high as a whopping 900! As of now, no pollster in India employs even 1/5th of that size for any survey at any given point of time. Thus presumably, most such instant polls are CATI surveys wherein responses are collected through automated voice activated systems which have a dubious track record in India and almost never produce any meaningful data metrics.
No wonder then that these snap polls are coming out with bizarre numbers. Sample this; as per Nielsen survey conducted for ABP News, the vote-share percentage of “others” is 0 per cent, which effectively means that 463 contesting candidates that include 195 independents and 268 candidates put up by some 67 political parties other than Congress, BJP and the AAP are expected to get no votes at all!
The truth is that even in the giant Modi wave of the summer of 2014, these “others” had managed to poll some 4,17,261 votes while in the previous Assembly election this vote stood at 9,64,466. Thus the “others” vote, which usually is higher in Assembly polls than in the Lok Sabha polls has been in the range of 4 lakh to 10 lakh in the city-state of Delhi. To completely neglect this “others” vote-share just tells us how flawed the methodology and statistical modelling of these fly-by-night polls are.
Of course, the story does not end just there, for the swings in vote-share are even more bizarre. For instance, as per the same ABP-Nielsen snap poll, the AAP has gained some 24 per cent vote-swing in the span of one week! This is unheard of in the history of Indian democracy for any political party in any election. As an example, even after Indira Gandhi’s assassination which produced a massive sympathy wave for the Congress, the party only got a swing of 6 per cent in its favor across India and some 15 per cent in Delhi. Without any colossal, earth-shattering, big-tree-falling event, just why did the Delhi voter make such a giant twist in his/her choice in a matter of a few days is beyond all electoral logic that only these media companies and their dubious pollsters can explain.
Hypothetically, let us accept for a moment that the AAP and Arvind Kejriwal have gained unprecedented amounts of support from Delhi voters. Now let us try and understand what thisKejriwal landslide means in actual terms. Many of the media poll surveys in late January have been projecting a range of 42 to 50 per cent vote-share for the AAP which in raw terms would mean 34 lakh to 42 lakh votes roughly. At its peak in late 2013 and early 2014, the AAP had managed to poll between 23 and 27 lakh votes, but now the media expects Kejriwal’s party to poll some 52 per cent more votes or more than 12 lakh extra median votes!
Where are these extra votes going to come from? One pet theory that is being bandied about is that Congress votes are getting mass transferred to the AAP, as if it was some bank balance that can be transacted using NEFT. The obvious problem with this theory is that Congress’s bank balance is already very low at 12 lakh votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and it will have to literally go to a near zero vote-share to help the AAP achieve the statistic of 50 per cent. Essentially, either Congress and “others” will all have to score zeros or BJP will have to forego half of its votes in order for the media to achieve its dreams of seeing a Kejriwal landslide.
What is even more intriguing is that all of this supposed vote-swing of humungous proportions is happening despite the AAP having failed to give a stable government beyond 49 days the last time around, despite there being a very popular government in place at the centre (which happens to be Delhi) led by a very popular prime minister unlike the last time and despite there being a very popular opponent to Kejriwal in the form of KiranBedi again unlike last time.
With so many factors going against the AAP and the party losing all its freshness of last year, if it still manages to poll some 12 lakh extra votes and some 15 extra seats then it would indeed be a great victory for the media and the Lutyens brigade. If, despite all this grandstanding and open favoritism, BJP still emerges victorious then the net-worth of the entire media editorial class of India would be irrevocably ZERO; a damage that can potentially destroy all the pompousness of every news anchor and editor in Dilli forever.