Elections 2019: Of Exit Polls and Conspiracy Theories

The exit polls predicted a victory for the BJP-led alliance with some suggesting a brute majority while others going with a more comfortable number. That the circus masquerading as news channels went to town with their numbers shouldn’t be surprising, given that it is a TRP game of one-upmanship.

Right on cue, the politicians reacted to the polls with some like National Conference leader Omar Abdullah appearing to have thrown in the towel while others like Shashi Tharoor went to town claiming that the sample survey of voters’ choice have seldom nailed the final outcome of giant elections like the one India just went through.

However, what is beyond our ken is the conspiracy theories that have appeared out of nowhere. Suddenly there are conspiracy theories floating around about how the EVMs would be spewing out only saffron votes and how the stock markets have already got wind of this, which is why the BSE Sensex experienced went through the roof on Monday.

On expected lines, the Congress joined hands with select regional satraps such as N Chandrababu Naidu to cast aspersions on the Election Commission and had a meeting to flag off their concerns about the electronic VVPAT (voter verified paper trail) machines. Naidu went on record to ask the commission why it was not conducting 50 per cent counting of VVPAT slips?

Right on cue, HD Kumaraswamy, chief minister of Karnataka, appeared to stoke the fires by suggesting that all EVMs were under Narendra Modi’s control. The chorus grew louder with Mamata Banerjee joining it, in spite of the fact that the exit polls had been favorable to her. What was hilarious about this anti-EVM uprising was that it came only after the exit polls!

The obvious question that comes to mind is were the EVMs used in last year’s assembly elections antagonistic to the BJP and Narendra Modi? Or did the exit polls then mean something different from now? Why is the Congress and the rest of the cabal in the opposition suddenly waking up to such conspiracy theories?

All of a sudden, 22 opposition parties have joined hands to question the EC and the VVPAT machines. As former Army Chief Gen. VP Malik put it:

There is also the small matter that one of these surveys predicted 220 seats for this cabal and could well be the platform from where some PM aspirants might build upon a non-BJP, non-Congress outfit – just in case the Exit Polls are off the mark!

While politicking is welcome what isn’t is the tendency to show their ire at those who do not agree on the EC’s conduct. Former President Pranab Mukherjee found himself in the eye of a storm for praising the “perfect conduct of the elections”. Given that his comments came a day after Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s tirade against the commission, it was taken as a direct attack by a lifelong Congressman who held the position of the country’s First Citizen.

Such was the chorus on television channels around the former president’s comment that Citizen Mukherjee had to issue another statement from his Twitter handle about his “concerns over the alleged tampering of voters’ verdict”. Of course, being the fair man that he is, Mukherjee refrained from casting aspersions on the Commission while asking it to be vigilant to any wrongdoing.

Everyone knows that exit polls are a TRP game for the circus that masquerades as news channels. It brings in revenue and keeps viewers glued to the television for a longer duration than an IPL match by analyzing data that is seldom representative of election outcomes due to poor sample selection and chaotic research.

So, why the big fuss?

Which brings us to the moot question. How can the Congress and the opposition parties question the election verdict before it is actually out and in parallel also dismiss the exit polls on grounds that they are seldom accurate?

In the words of late actor Mehmood as Master Pillai from the 1960s superhit Padosan, “Yeh Kya Goda-Chatura, Goda-Chatura Kya Hai? Ya Chatur Bolo, Ya Goda Bolo.”