May 12, 2007

The Elephant Ride

A Look at UP Elections

The people of Uttar Pradesh have spoken and thrashing all pre-poll concoctions have voted the Bahujan Samaj Party lead by the one and only Mayawati with a simple majority to lord over them for the next five years.


As the route to power in Delhi is through Lucknow - and as I have predicted earlier - with such a performance, it’s only a matter of time before Mayawati sat on the PM’s chair. Only a bullet can stop this.


Now that the verdict is out, its time to take a look at the seven-phase poll.


It is an astounding feat for the EC to have held a poll in crime infested UP without a single violent incident. This success of holding crime free election once more gives importance to Police reforms in India. The message is that if the Police are not under the control of the state govt, the better will be the law and order situation in the state.


The final voter turnout in UP was 44%. And still we have a clear result in the elections with Mayawati winning a simple majority. Due to the EC’s no-nonsense security arrangements, SP goons couldn’t work their magic and consequently lost but surprisingly increased their vote share. No wonder then Mulayam blamed the EC for SP’s defeat. This defeat doesn’t mean Mulayam is down and out. He can hope to capitalise on Mayawati’s blunders to bounce back just like the BJP has got back its urban Hindu vote bank due to the stupidities of the Congress Party led UPA govt.


BJP, which was hoping to capture Delhi in 2009 via Lucknow, will now have to find another route to Delhi. After all the alliance and caste arithmetic they conjured up for the UP yudh, the BJP alliance at the end of day ended up with just 51 seats. Something unbelievable after the same party had swept the UP urban areas consolidating the urban Hindu vote in the municipal elections a few months earlier. So why did BJP’s traditional upper-caste and OBC voters all over the state desert it this time despite its mother organisation the RSS working overtime to maximise BJP’s chances? Are they fed up with its communal politics? Are they sick of BJP’s anti-Muslim propaganda CDs and vitriolic anti-Muslim speeches? Are they not worried about national security?


The Congress Party’s performance in UP after all the high expectations from their messiah Rahul baba turned out to be a damp squib. From hoping to win about 50 seats - and play the kingmaker - the Congress party ended up with just 21 seats that is four down from last time. Surely it takes more than road shows, whining about fourteen ‘lost’ years and hogging the limelight on television to capture power in UP. If the indicators are anything, then it is only a matter of time before the Congress Party is wiped out in UP.


The way Mayawati wove her mayajaal over the voters of UP is amazing. To her solid Dalit vote base she has added this time upper-castes (chiefly Brahmins), some OBCs and some Muslims. What we are seeing is the repeat of the social engineering of the Congress party before Mandal and Mandir with the Dalits replacing the upper-castes as the dominant group. Her “Sarvajan Samaj” experiment has resulted in BSP forming a govt on its own for the first time in UP. It is definitely a sea change if the Brahmins and other upper-castes are ready to trust a Dalit with their future instead of a party for them formed by them. It remains to be seen if Mayawati is able to replicate her “Sarvajan Samaj” experiment in rest of India especially in Rajastan and Madhya Pradesh, which are going to polls in 2008. Mayawati is eyeing the Hindutva laboratory of Gujarat next. Will she be able to destroy the hate lab for once and for all?


Once again the Muslim voter of UP turned out to be far shrewder than any of the armchair political analysts ever thought. Just like in 2004 general elections this time too they voted to defeat BJP.BJP was pinning on the splintering of the Muslim vote to see them through in many seats. Even if this had happened how would the BJP have won when the upper-castes too had deserted them? No wonder the BJP bigwigs are at their wits end trying to decipher the UP verdict.


Mayawati didn’t ask for the Muslim vote openly still they voted tactically to elect the non-BJP stronger candidate. The best news is that they were clever enough not to fall for BJP’s insidious provocations and at the same time to see the futility of voting for Muslim parties that sprang up recently in order to ‘protect’ the interests of Indian Muslims. If the Muslims of UP have such intelligence then why cant they use it to enable them to stand shoulder to shoulder with rest of Indians? How long will they live in their own cocoon?


When Mayawati became the CM for the first time it was reported that she made a cool 250 crores in six months flat. Now with a mandate for five years, only god almighty can predict how much she will end up with.


Psephology and UP Elections
In the age of satellite television and the Internet, Indian psephology and psephologists are having a good time. What with professionals and wannabes having a go at it. It has become immaterial whether the ‘psephologists’ are getting it right or wrong. All that matters is getting more eyeballs and hits to ones channel or website.


Prannoy Roy called the father of Indian psephology who once upon a time used to get all his predictions right lost it completely after Mandal and Mandir made its mark in Indian elections. Fed up with getting muck on his face every time, Roy had no option but stop predicting all together. But with the proliferation of English news channels, which had no qualms in trying their hands at psephology, he had no option but to restart it. After moderate success in calling some recent state elections correctly, his big test was undoubtedly Uttar Pradesh. UP is no two-party state but a cauldron of caste and communal politics and Prannoy Roy failed miserably in this acid test. His elaborate half-hour exit poll programmes had everything to hoodwink viewers. What was amazing was the way many intelligent Internet savvy people fell hook, line and sinker for Roy’s subterfuge. At first he tom-tomed the fact that for his exit poll, he polled more voters than his nearest rival (read CNN-IBN). In other words his predictions are trustworthy than his rivals. At the start of the polls, Roy had given BJP very few seats (55-60 seats) but the moment the communal CD became news, he simply doubled BJP’s figures to 95-105 seats. Any astute mind would have seen through this and asked some tough questions but the moron the viewer is believed him. So at the end of the seventh phase, Roy gave BJP 108-118 seats, which is nowhere near the actual 51 seats BJP alliance won. So it is clear Prannoy Roy has not made any essential changes to his psephological methods so that he gets his predictions correct but is only trying to increase the TRPs of his channels with his exit poll rip off.


At the end of the day only one psephologist got anywhere near to the actual figures. Many people will have a hard time in believing how this much-mocked psephologist got anywhere near to the actual winning figures. He is the guy who called the caste-ridden state of Bihar correctly. What does that mean? Its simply means he and his team have access to some kind of data and software that can decipher the poll signals almost correctly. So next time before one cast aspersions on experts in their respective fields, it will be better to ask oneself whether he or she is qualified to take on the so-called expert or not. Armchair expertise-ing is a dangerous thing.


It is nice to see wannabe psephologists too trying their hand at psephology. But when one tries to engineer the findings to fit ones political leanings or ideology, you are bound to end up with muck egg on your face. Another thing wannabes - who are probably sitting in some nice air-conditioned cabin or cubicle - shouldn’t try is questioning the professionals who always have access to stuff wannabes can never have.

4 comments:

Nitin said...

RS,

Psephology/opinion polling are fundamentally unreliable.

Prediction markets are supposed to be more accurate; given some caveats.

PublicGyan is one such effort; we have suspended development because we want some good people (web techies, and graphic designers) to join the team.

RS said...

Nitin,

Yes you are right. But these guys still do it for commercial reasons as I mentioned in my post.

I remeber PG...used to visit it...then kind of forgot. Still remember the Sania Mirza prediction.. how true it turned out to be!

Prasoon Joshi said...

Well, PM is a bit too far an idea (even in Behenji's head i guess!) .. what is correct is the fact that she may do well in a few other states as well (only assembly polls) .. Indian electorate has always given different verdicts at different polls (compare the BJP performance a few months back in UP) .. When it comes to national politics people have a totally different point of view .. n they should have one !!!

Raj said...

Well, I don't know that it is inevitable that Mayawati will sit in Delhi. UP is no longer the only road to Delhi. In the last 17 years, we have had several PMs who did not owe their position to the voters of UP, starting with Narasimha Rao, Gujral, and now Manmohan.

It's up to Mayawati. The game, as they say, is for her to win or lose. Rule well, and the people will reward her. Indulge in the vendetta of transfergiri, and focus on installing thousands of plaster of paris statues of Ambedkar instead of governing, and the people will show her the door, just like they did the last time.

It would be a pity if that were to happen for she seems to offer a tantalising glimpse of a new and unexpected way to manage the old problem of caste divisiveness -- the one single issue that keeps holding the country back.