Thanks to the Exit Polls we knew the BJP was winning big in the Indian elections a few days before the results came out. And congratulations to the great work the research agencies put in to get it largely right this time. But, I have another perspective to share.
It’s this: apart from the (potential) coalition partners, who may have got a headstart on their (potential) bargaining strategies (no use for that now!), I wonder who else really benefitted from knowing that BJP was winning – something that everyone was expecting anyway? I mean, of what good was that information really to anyone when it was going to be official just a couple of days later?
That got me thinking.
Imagine, if all the resources, time and energy that was spent on conducting these exit polls had got used more constructively!
What if, instead of asking people just whom they voted for, the questions were about people’s expectations of the new government?
What if they were questions seeking to establish a new agenda for the incoming government? On finding out what people thought about the main points in the manifestos of the parties? Article 370 – yes or no? Women’s reservation bill – yes or no?Big subsidies – yes or no?100% FDI – yes or no, etc., etc.?
Actually, in my opinion, the number of seats in any Indian election isn’t a true reflection of the will of the people because even in this unprecedented wave of a BJP victory, the actual share of the votes they have is around 40% – still short of a majority. Which means a majority of the people who voted didn’t actually vote for BJP! (And that definitely opens up a whole new subject – of changing our democracy from the simple majority system to a proportional representation system, but that’s off topic here.)
All I want to say is that I wish our news channels and research agencies had thought a bit differently about this and realised the poor shelf life of their research in this election. I wish they’d noticed that they just had 3-4 days to talk about the hard work they put in to gauge the voter. And I wish they’d opted instead to ask the voter what they wanted from their representatives in parliament. Not just which party they wanted.
Then we’d have had a more than just a guessing game of numbers that got over so quickly. We’d have had a yardstick to measure the government by. Throughout their full term!