In #2019, no TINA but be wary of TAIL!

As 2018 winds down and we step in to 2019, for India, it is just not another new year. Mid of 2019 is when we will have the Lok Sabha polls that will determine if Narendra Modi will get another shot at being the Prime Minister. In my memory, I cannot recall of any individual who has come for so much scrutiny as an elected representative. And whose re-election is being discussed and debated so intensely in the country. First up, blame it all on the social media and its growing tentacles!

The fact that a government’s performance is coming up for such a rigorous appraisal itself, augurs well for our country. It should be like that. I only hope that this appraisal business isn’t selective and not just reserved for Modi Sarkar! If I think as to why this government has come under such a close assessment, I realise that it should blame itself for the same.

Did we have any other government in the past that

Set targets for itself on many fronts?

Which announced the targets and put them out in public domain?

Which tracked the actual delivery against the targets and presented them for everyone to see and comprehend easily that too mostly on real-time basis?

Today we know, not just what this government’s targets are for rural electrification, construction of highways, building targets, opening of bank accounts so on and so forth but also where it stands in terms of achievement. One look at the https://transformingindia.mygov.in/performance-dashboard/ site gives us an update on a real-time basis. It is not that governments in the past did not set targets for themselves. But all these targets were usually in terms of outlays announced in the Annual Budget speeches and seldom one would know what the final outcomes were. Between the outlays and outcomes, the India story remained in tatters. I guess not any more.  So, if people keep remembering the promises made and get disappointed if some of the promises have not been met fully or adequately, blame it on the Government’s efforts of putting out data in the open which makes it possible to compare achievements Vs goals easily.

In comparison to the upbeat mood in 2014 and 2015, today the mood in the country is more sombre. Even the most loyal fans of Modi have realised that probably he chewed more than what he could swallow. Five years are just not enough to turn around and solve all the ills of the country. That too when the global economy is facing one headwind after another! But then, as a country we had our own share of misses. Right when the economy was getting back on track in 2015/16 from the throes of policy paralysis and negative vibes and was poised for a leap, this government let loose the Demonetisation devil on the economy.  This set the economy back by 2 years to get back on track. That we didn’t fully collapse and managed to grow the economy at a slower pace nevertheless, would be a miracle, academicians would pore over in the years to come!

Before the effects of Demonetisation could subside, this government went ahead with the introduction of GST which according me is the biggest Tax reform in Independent India. Irrespective of the critics who take on this government on the “not so perfect” GST, I maintain that it was extremely creditable on the part of Modi Sarkar to launch the GST without further delaying, on the 1st of July 2017. In India, in aspects of meeting deadlines, we Indians follow religiously and rigorously the Theory of Elasticity which says solid materials deform under the application of external force and regain their original shape when the force is removed. So, in the quest of a perfect, ideal GST, if this government had deferred the launch, who knows, perhaps we will still be talking of “introducing the GST” in the upcoming budget!  Against that, today we already have a thriving GST which is now going to complete 2 years! The introduction of GST will remain this government’s biggest achievement when its history is written.

The short term pains inflicted by these 2 moves (Demonetisation and GST) to the small and medium businesses combined with the government’s failure to address the Banking crisis at the beginning of its term have led the BJP to the situation where it is today.  In its strong hold states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the party’s support base has been dwindling. On the contrary, the Congress which seemingly had no hope of a revival till mid-2017, has smelt blood and is hoping to deprive Modi of a second term and a shot at history.

In India today, in the main stream media and also probably social media, the obituary of Modi Sarkar is being written on a daily basis. As per me, it is too early to write off Narendra Modi in the context of 2019. In spite of his government’s misses in terms of promises and more importantly the delivery of Achhe Din, his personal credibility as a leader who is keen to deliver, is intact. I do believe that there are those who are disappointed with him. But they are still not disgusted with him. Yet.  My personal feeling is that they would like to give him another chance.  The same states which voted out the BJP recently could very well see voting for Modi in the Lok Sabha polls!

Apart from this factor of Modi’s personal charisma, there is another important factor at play. People like to call it the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor. I don’t believe that there are no alternatives to Modi. In fact, we have many. We have the spectre of a Rahul Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister, if a Congress led UPA front emerges as the biggest. Or else it could be toss between a Mamata Banerjee or a Mayawati or a Chandrasekhar Rao or any other leader depending upon how many seats they win, as part of a coalition which will be cobbled together post the elections. In all these cases, a leader of the party with 30-40 MPs would head the coalition of 10-15 parties with each party playing the “I am indispensable” card!

This Mahagathbandan where, parties will oppose each other in one state but will come together in another state is only a Maha”cut”bandhan who want their share of power and the perks that come with it. I believe that people are smart enough to understand and realise that Modi Sarkar might have disappointed but will still probably vote for him not because of TINA but being weary of TAIL – The Alternative Is Lousy!

In the past, we saw many Accidental Prime Ministers as we didn’t sight TAIL properly! Hope 2019 is different. On that hopeful note, wishing India a momentous 2019!

Cartoon courtesy: Satish Acharya

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Eggs it is polls!

Afternoon on Sunday exactly a week ago in India, suddenly eggs went into short supply mode. Didn’t they all land up on the faces of psephologists and many pollster turned anchors in Delhi and other places??? For more than 3 months, India had been hijacked by elections in one state – Bihar. At the end of the tiring, long drawn 5 phased elections and just before the actual counting on 8th Nov (last Sunday) – almost all channels went on an overdrive with telecast of their exit poll results. The channels had used different agencies to conduct the same, extrapolate the vote share into seats and projected the results. However, in the afternoon when the actual results started coming in, it was clear that all the channels and their agencies were way off the mark. While all the channels had predicted a very close election with a wafer thin majority either in favour of the NDA or the Mahaghatbandhan (MGB from here), the actual outcome was more than a landslide win for the Nitish led MGB and a massive blow to Modi led NDA and ofcourse to the pollsters!!! Ironically the one agency (AXIS) which had got it correct didn’t get the opportunity to air their poll results. The channel’s (CNN-IBN) management thought it outrageous to telecast a poll which gave 169-183 seats to the MGB we are told!!! Amidst all this mass Exit poll debacle there was only one individual – Dr. Surjit Bhalla who stuck his neck out and gave 175 seats for the MGB just by his own forecast model (not exit polls) in his Indian Express article a few days before the counting and got it right.

This massive blow to Modi may be a 1st since his historic 2014 win, but for the pollsters this blow is not the 1st. Before the Bihar elections when Delhi went into polls this year, the same thing happened. While most polls predicted a close fight between BJP and AAP, the final result was clean sweep by the broom party. None of the exit/opinion polls captured that kind of a sweep. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections again it was only one agency – Today’s Chanakya which correctly called the outcome. Most others projected just a simple majority for the NDA.

Inspite of this way off their mark predictions what is the bet that the same agencies will not again carry out opinion polls/ exit polls the next time around?? These are competitive times for the channels and the polling agencies. As any election approaches (Central/State) these must be the first to salivate and glee at the prospects of increasing their TRPs with all the election related programming in which the opinion polls and exit polls are now an integral part. So we will continue to see the much hyped exit polls packaged as with new improved methodology, bigger and improved sampling next time over. Again.

Years ago when the idea of Opinion polls and Exit polls got imported to India from the US (I guess) it was fascinating. As mortals, there is this tendency in us to jump the gun. Those trips to palmists, astrologers and soothsayers of different hues to know our Aane wale kal explain this tendency. Similarly we feel excited to know who will be our rulers before the actual counting is done through exit polls though it is just a few days ahead. But US and other western democracies from where these concepts originated, are less complex and more homogenous as a society. So calling an election after an exit poll with a very small sample size and extrapolating the results there is a less arduous task I guess. (Even there Exit polls have gone awfully wrong) Ofcourse India is another kettle of beef (😁) altogether. We are repeatedly told that we have religion based voting, caste based voting, community based voting and what have you. But one thing which is missed in all this “______based voting” which the pollsters and analysts keep talking about is the New Indian voter’s “Brain based voting”!!!

As we saw now in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Delhi state elections and now in Bihar the difference in an election swinging one way or the other depends on the non-core party voters. Core party voters (members/supporters and sympathisers) vote for their party in any case. It is the Non-core party voters who bring in the swing in a particular party’s favour. They voted in a big way in favour of Narendra Modi in the 2014 elections and NDA got an overwhelming mandate. However in Delhi state elections the Non-core party voters who voted for BJP in the Lok Sabha elections voted for AAP and swept it to power. Similarly the non-core party voters pulled their might in favour of MGB in Bihar. So most of the non-core party voters in Bihar who wanted to see Narendra Modi as PM wanted to see Nitish as their CM. Perhaps. I didn’t get to see (or maybe I missed) this angle where the voters are getting smarter by the day in terms of their choices and do “Brain based voting”. So we get these results. Overwhelming mandate for Modi for PM. But Kejriwal for CM or Nitish for CM though they are entrenched firmly in different camps.

So the next time may be the pollsters should just identify if a respondent is a core or a non-core party voter and record to which party he/she voted instead of spending too much time if respondents are upper caste or Dalit or Maha Dalit,..,.. In which case, they will be in a better position to forecast how the actual swing is and save those eggs on their faces😜

MANJUL_060312irrToon courtesy: http://www.manjul.com