Pollsters proved wrong

Print edition : October 23, 1999

Every time the media and political pundits predicted stunning reverses for the Samajwadi Party (S.P.) in elections in Uttar Pradesh, the party has confounded them by coming up with an improved performance. The story has been no different this time. The S .P., which had increased its tally to 20 seats in 1998 from 16, won an all-time high of 26 seats in 1999. Yet, when Venkitesh Ramakrishnan met Mulayam Singh Yadav, the S.P. president was not happy. Surrounded by admirers and party workers w ho had come to congratulate him, Mulayam Singh Yadav said that adverse media projections and exit polls had deprived his party of at least 15 seats. Expcerpts:

Throughout the election campaign you emphasised the importance of rebuilding the Third Front as an alternative to the Congress(I) and the BJP. You said there was an anti-Congress(I), anti-BJP mood among the people. How do you now analyse the Lok Sabh a election results?

I had emphasised this point and even made some moves in that direction by aligning with forces such as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). However, many of my old friends from non-BJP, non-Congress(I) parties did not understand this. The fundamental pr oblem with many of them was that they had lost confidence in themselves. Hence they played second fiddle to the Congress(I), thinking that it would stop the BJP's march. I warned them that the Congress(I) was in alliance with the BJP and would only help it come back to power. The elections have shown that the Congress(I) is the single most important factor that helped the BJP's return to power. It is evident that the Congress(I) cannot stop the BJP. It needs a vibrant force like the Samajwadi Party. Thi s is evident from the results in Uttar Pradesh, where the S.Ps organisational might is at the maximum. While my old friends failed to read the anti-communal, anti-dynastic-rule sentiment among dominant sections of the population we saw it early and tappe d it well. Now that the results are out, I am sure that all those who pooh-poohed the Third Front concept have realised their mistake.

You had claimed that you would win around 35 to 40 seats in Uttar Pradesh.

I would have won 40 to 50 seat, had it not been for the media pundits and the exit pollsters. Then, the BJP would not have been able to return to power. They went on campaigning that I would end up with three to five seats. They confused the minorities b y propagating that Muslims across the country were deserting me and joining the Congress(I). This created a negative impression on the undecided voters. Most of these pundits and pollsters belong to the elite and they do not understand Bharat at all. The y do not know about the rivers, hills, roads and forests of this great country. They do not know how people live here. They do not know what hardship poverty and lack of nutrition can cause. These are the people who reduced the S.P. to five seats. These are the people who always say that I am losing in my constituency even when I am winning by over a lakh of votes. There are television channels that say that I am trailing even after I have got the certificate of victory. I am sure that an inquiry as to how these media pundits underestimate the S.P's strength in every election would make an interesting study. Some shocking facts might come out of that.

Are you indicating a political conspiracy?

I am only saying that an inquiry into this repeated underestimation would make an interesting study.

During the election campaign it was said that the S.P. had struck a secret understanding with the BJP.

Three types of people made this baseless allegation. First, those who wanted to abuse me personally and politically. Second, those who pursued devious political designs, like some Congress(I) leaders. The third type of people who make this allegation are those who are ignorant of the political realities. I have answered all of them through the election results.

But BJP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh is on record as having said that the bitterness between him and Mulayam Singh Yadav is a thing of the past.

I never had any personal animosity towards Kalyan Singh. Perhaps he was bitter at times but I took care never to say anything personal against him. This time he also did not make personal allegations. But our political rivalry continues.

How far did former BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj's campaign under the auspices of the Lodh Swabhiman Sabha help the S.P.?

The BJP leadership humiliated Sakshiji and he wanted to get them defeated. He realised that only the S.P. could undertake this task. He campaigned for the S.P. without any conditions. In fact, throughout the campaign I had not even met him. It was only a fter the announcement of results that I saw him.

Do you think that the Lok Sabha results would make an impact on U.P.politics? If so, will it lead to a realignment of forces, especially between you and Kalyan Singh since his own colleagues are targeting the Chief Minister?

How can anybody predict the future? We will have to see how the situation develops.

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