Ranjona Banerji: Of what use are Exit Polls?

10 Mar,2017

By Ranjona Banerji


Now it’s all about the fantastic universe of exit polls on TV. This is a great exercise in faith, belief, ritual and redemption which has nothing and everything to do with religion. It is likely that it has nothing to do with reality either. In any case, by tomorrow afternoon, that is March 11, we will know how the five states voted and the process of government formation will begin.


This over-excitement about exit polls two days before results are announced is something of an exercise in futility. Much as it is true that today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s bhelpuri wrapping, it is also true that this morning’s TV noise is completely forgotten by the evening.


The point of these exit polls, especially as they are now cabined, cribbed and confined by the Election Commission, is somewhat elusive. I understand they give employment to pollsters and I am all for employment. But for the media to get into such a tizzy over them, I am less understanding. It’s not just the varying success rate that raises questions but the need for them at all. A vote is a certain sort of a poll anyway so why a poll of a poll?




Meanwhile, I have a story idea for the media. I reckon that TV news will not be happy with this idea because it is not all rah-rah-government-gaga stuff but it does appear to represent the anger and frustration of some sections of the general public. The back story is that I put up a few tweets and some Facebook posts about the unfairness of the new cash withdrawal transaction fees imposed by private banks, the minimum balance penalty imposed by State Bank of India and the justification of this penalty because banks have been forced to open zero-balance Jan Dhan accounts. Above this, digital transactions will be taxed and mobile wallet company PayTM, endorsed and modelled for by the prime minister, has also announced additional charges.


This means that since that disastrous demonetisation exercise, everything has become more expensive and troublesome for people who use the banking system. It’s not just me, several people have objected and there are a number of Whatsapp forwards doing the rounds too.


I got a huge response to my tweets and posts, all of them angry, some funnily angry, some plain mad. My posts were shared by several people so I was forced to alter my privacy settings and make them public. Even those who normally register as “bhakts” were upset. The consensus is that the government cheated us and the banks are cashing in on it.


Wouldn’t this make a fabulous TV debate?

Sometimes I really make myself laugh. As if we’ll see our friends in TV reflecting the anger of the people. I can see all the anchors brushing up on new versions of “You have a point” and “Having said that” to justify the government’s position on its demonical schemes.




There is also a storm brewing over our Unique Identity scheme or Aadhaar. Much as the Supreme Court has insisted that the card is voluntary, the government is making it mandatory for more and more schemes. Including the absurd and heartless proposal – now halfway retracted – that children need an AadharCard if they want their mid-day meals from the government. And if one remembers correctly, the BJP declared that Aadhar was the worst invention since the nuclear bomb. O ya, we all love the nuclear bomb. Sorry.


Any debates on this? Aren’t I funny this morning? There will always be something in Pakistan or a suspected terrorist killed to allow our TVwallahs to deflect and detract from the poor and other problems that plague the majority of India.




To get back to the beginning, I have kept track of all our various exit polls and their varying estimates and the long rope they have given themselves. I’m going to have fun on Tuesday, I can tell you that.


Happy March 11 and Happy Holi!


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