Ranjona Banerji: He won, he will win, he has as good as won

09 Dec,2022

By Ranjona Banerji


Ranjona BanerjiThe editor and I play this game every election. Much like the same game the media plays around this time. Exit polls! Exit polls! What will they say? How accurate will they be?

Both of us know how polls are used by the media to fill space, to create excitement and increasingly for television, to disguise the fact they don’t encourage their journalists to do actual work. For obvious reasons.

Every now and then it seems that exit polls are illegal or not allowed or something. This does not deter anyone from carrying on. The proscriptions are to do with timing. And no one – least of all the pollsters who I hope laugh all the way to their banks – is bothered about accuracy. Who remembers anyway, right?

The Quint has done all the work, so I can spare myself. As you can see, bar large and generous margins of error, the exit polls were haha, take it or leave it. Some will appear – if they have not already – on TV to justify themselves, others will just prepare for their next outing.


What about the results themselves?

As far as most of the media is concerned – and I base this on headline directions – is overwhelmingly confident that Narendra Modi and the BJP (I nearly wrote it the other way around, tauba tauba!) have emphatically won.

And they may well be right.

Modi and the BJP overwhelmingly won in Gujarat, 156 out of 182 seats. Obviously, this is a huge victory. Should we backtrack a bit? Why did the exit polls get the enormity of the victory so wrong? The Congress won only 17 seats. Why did the exit polls give the party so much more?

Did people lie? Did people change their minds? Did something else happen?

Who knows.

In Himachal Pradesh, sadly, the BJP did not win overwhelmingly. You will be forgiven if you believe that they did win in a small way, if you follow the headlines of the mainstream media. The tragic fact is that Modi and the BJP with 25 seats lost to the Congress which got 40. The BJP was the incumbent. The correct way to present this news is that Modi did not lose or did not not win. The local BJP lost and maybe the BJP president will get a dressing down. Equally true is the news according to the Indian media that Rahul Gandhi lost Himachal Pradesh and has already got a dressing down from the media for losing Himachal Pradesh. Either the new Congress president or local leaders can get some credit perhaps for the Congress winning in Himachal. I have seen journalists who know everything crediting both the Congress president and local Congress politicians.

My own caveat is to hang on for the final story. Anything may happen in Himachal Pradesh. A 40 seat to 25 seat margin is not a lot. Maybe Modi and the BJP will win the state after all despite losing the election. They’re good at that. See, and you believe that I never say nice things about the BJP. Cue the media ready to congratulate the BJP and Amit Shah’s canny statecraft. Shhh. Don’t mention the bank balance. The media rarely does.

The AAP victory in the Delhi municipal elections and the media? For one thing, I can hardly believe I’m writing about municipal elections. Anyway. It seems some BJP people also wonder why the media is bothered about municipal elections. The diktat for the media is clear: municipal elections are important only if Modi ji wins.

Here we have a divide. Some media outlets are overjoyed that AAP and Arvind Kejriwal have won the municipal corporation and ousted the BJP after 17 years. Some have dismissed it as a municipal election not worthy of attention – though they covered it assiduously, as they do other municipal elections where Modi ji has campaigned, until Modi ji only won 104 seats and AAP won 134. Some of the second lot have also focused on the fact that the Congress only won nine seats. There’s also something about a BJP mayor but I’ll tell you honestly that I can’t be bothered to find out why because please, I mean, it’s Delhi, come on. My interest span has already extended itself to its limit.

Therefore, for the media at the end of the day, Modi won overwhelmingly and if he did not win, he will win and anyway he has as good as won.

Got it?


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her views here are personal


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