The exit poll results that came out within hours of completion of the last phase of polling for the 17th Lok Sabha election, should definitely give no small comfort and confidence to the ruling NDA.
Almost all exit polls say that the BJP alliance which came to power on a tide of Modi wave in 2014, will this time retain power without the backing of such a wave but with the same strength. Some media like 'India Today' have predicted upto 365 seats for the alliance. These results also indicate that in Kerala, UDF will get an upper hand and the BJP will open its account for parliament in the state.
Quite naturally, these 'poll results' have spread a pall of gloom across the anti-Modi secular block. This can well be read in the responses from Opposition parties. The contention of Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee and others like her is that these figures are a carefully created script made to cover up things including the electronic voting machine (EVM) fraud, beyond the games put up by the pro-Modi media. In the backdrop of much of the political drama that was drummed up - including this exit poll - none of these arguments can be dismissed as mere conspiracy theories.
It was the famous mathematician and writer Morris Kline who commented that statistics is a mathematical theory of ignorance. There are others who described statistics as a scientific magic of using credible figures to create unbelievable and impossible 'facts'. It is to be noted that it was in a historical context when this branch of science was inappropriately misused that these definitions and interpretations were proferred. Often the statistics that form the basis of poll surveys are of that type. That is why sometimes, when the real results emerge, they turn out to be just the opposite of the exit poll results. Recall the exit poll results prior to the Brexit referendum in Britain three years ago. Most of the media who conducted the exit polls had said that the British people had voted against Bexit, i.e. against Britain pulling out of the European Union.
But the actual result was to the contrary. The Australian general election result that came out the other day, also overturned the exit poll forecast. Despite over 50 media coming out with the tool of exit poll against current prime minister Scott Morrison, the Australian electorate gave him one more opportunity. This 'upset' has happened in the electral history of India too. In 2004, the exit poll advantage was for the NDA which had made much headway with the slogan 'India Shines'. But Vajpayee and his allies were consigned to the opposition bench by the people of India. The 2009 exit poll forecast was that Congress would win less seats. But what happened was not only in contrast to that, the Manmohan Singh government won a second term too.
Most recently, in the assembly election in Bihar, exit poll went entirely wrong. In the middle of all this, there have also been elections where exit polls came out with the right picture. The basis of exit polls is the information gathered from those who exit from their voting. This becomes relatively more authentic than other poll surveys because the expression of opinion by a voter after exercising his franchise will be the intention of the voter himself. Even then, why would exist polls go wrong? One of the answers to this is that it happens when the interests of entities conducting exit polls overtake the intention of the voter.
Upto the seventh phase of campaign, the BJP itself had admitted that there was no sign of a Modi wave anywhere. The party national secretary himself had commented that BJP would not be able to retain majority on its own. Not only that, the party president Amit shah had to conceded openly to the media that they would have to invite more parties to the fold of NDA to continue in power, presumably acknowledging that they lagged behind in campaign as much as in government. Thus, it is when the NDA leaders themelves express diffidence about their own performance, that their media clique have come out with such numbers. One has to see the figures which tell us that the election this time was also one during which political parties had bought up media entities.
The beneficiary in this was the pro-BJP media. Right before the election, these media organizations had openly declared their pro-Modi leniency. Their election reporting also went along the lines of the same agenda. And now the exit poll results giving brute majority to Modi, are also emerging from the same media. Quite natural then that the public have reservations about these 'results'. At the same time, the possibility of all of them being right need not be entirely dismissed either. If that happens, it will have to be taken as proof that more than the facts raised against Modi government such as corruption, anti-farmer measures, unemployment and minority persecution, the country has changed its priority to the sole theme of 'Hindutva'. If so, then India will be led by a more terrifying dispensation than the neo-Nazi politics evolving in Europe and other places. In any case, let us wait with prayers till 23 May.