If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not,
Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear
Your favours nor your hate. — Banquo in Macbeth
The question uppermost in every Indian mind this week is: Will the Modi wave land the National Democratic Alliance in power or leave it in the political cold?
It is hazardous indeed to make predictions, especially about the future. But amateur scribes like me jump in waters that angels dare not tread. That’s called professional brinkmanship.
I enquired of a friend who went over to Kashi to get a real feel of things. He told me what surprised him the most in Banaras was that the town was flooded with giant hoardings of candidates in the fray, prominently the SP, BSP and Congress candidates. There was hardly any hoarding of Narendra Modi. But when one speaks to the people, he said, every second person proudly says he would vote for Modi. “Ihan Modi ka hava naahin, aandhi hai” (Not just wave, there is Modi storm here).
Yet the wise tell you: Never make forecasts, especially about the future. Of course, a prediction is inherently about the future, and the modifiers “especially” and “particularly” emphasize the comical redundancy of the statement.
Predicting the Future
Before I stick my neck out further, may I pose, dear readers, a few questions for you to ponder over: Did you ever wonder about what techniques people use to predict the future? Have you ever wondered how the so-called experts make their predictions? Do they use astrology, a crystal ball, tea leaves, or some other tricks and techniques of the trade that laymen like you and me have no access to?
How about economists, in particular, who make predictions about the upcoming financial conditions or scientists who predict global warming is the result of a buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? What techniques do they use? As you reflect on these questions, you will come to realize that all their predictions are based on models people have developed over the years to describe the systems they are interested in. So, it turns out that models are at the root of our success and failure in forecasting.
Should this be the case, it would be important for us to understand some fundamentals about models and the systems they depend upon.
There are, experts tell me, basically two approaches to creating a model: one based on an empirical data and one based on the expert’s knowledge of the fundamentals of the system.
With the advent of mammoth computing capability, developing empirical models has become relatively easier for data analysis and correlation. If the first attempt doesn’t succeed, more parameters are added until a correlation appears to have been achieved.
These are usually developed by people who have studied in a field for many years and claim a fundamental understanding of the systems they are working with.
In either case, the models are basically the expert’s assumptions about the system and how it works.
Psephology is the branch of political science which deals with the study and scientific analysis of elections. Psephology uses historical precinct voting data, public opinion polls, campaign finance information and similar statistical data. The now-popular term was coined in the United Kingdom in 1952 by historian R. B. McCallum to describe the scientific analysis of past elections. How effortlessly does the past and present merge into one!
Psychologists may analyze samples of an electorate and prepare materials to show the public how the sample represents common opinion in an election. These individuals may be freelancers or employees of either a media company or a political campaign, though they may be working in slightly different roles as private campaign workers.
Working as a psephologist can involve many separate aspects of the electoral process. These professionals - Yogendra Yadav, for instance, is one of our leading psephologists - can examine, for instance, various electoral jurisdictions to analyze a collective result, or identify problems with a margin of error in polling, such as access to a ballot or issues with transportation. These individuals may also be engaged in actively creating polls or questionnaires for an electorate.
Possible Scenarios for May 12 and 16
In fact when the last ballot is cast on the 12th the broad fate of the next government is sealed in EVMs. We will get an early whiff of it on the late evening of 12 May when the exit polls start coming in, and the final results four days later.
But it is possible to guess what the comments will be, depending on whether you are a BJP partisan or an anti-Modi one.
If BJP gets below 160 seats, Modi haters in the media will say: This is a victory for the secular people of India. So LK Advani was right to challenge the projection of Modi as the PM candidate. In retrospect, someone like Shivraj Chauhan would have been a better choice for BJP. Modi partisans in the media will retort: The elections have been rigged.
If BJP gets below 180 seats and NDA around 210-220: Modi haters will say: A triumph of secularism. Despite a splurge of spending and the projection of Modi in a hundred ways, voters have rejected him. The Indian voter cannot be taken for a ride with mere marketing. Two-thirds of voters are not in favor of Modi.
BJP apologists will say: The elections have been rigged.
If BJP wins a majority on its own: Modi haters will say: This is not good news for India, but the Congress has only itself to blame for not stopping Modi. This is a defeat for the Congress and not a win for the BJP or Modi. He won by default. We, however, must respect the mandate, however flawed, and wait for a while to pass full judgment. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
BJP partisans will say: The people have spoken. The Congress is finished. The dynasty is finished. The people do not want family rule anymore.
Intellectuals against Modi
Watching the election campaign in all its phases during the last few months, what hurt me the most has been our continuing intellectual slavery best exhibited by our self-styled intellectuals who swear in the name of that elusive concept called secularism. They are vehemently opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, maintaining they were aiming to capture power by spreading communal hatred.
The reason, I reckon, is simple and has nothing to do with the religious labels of ‘infiltrators’ from Bangladesh. It is just a matter - pure and simple - of vested interests. Over the last sixty odd years our self-styled intellectual class has so deeply entrenched itself in corridors of power. The chilling prospects of being deprived of their privileged positions are too much for it to live with. This always has happened in history whenever a new order replaced a L’Ancien Régime steeped in mutual back-scratching cronyism. So, no wonder Ashok Mitra, Romila Thapar, D N Jha, Irfan Habib, Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Mushirul Hasan and Prabhat Patnaik are so deeply exercised.
Here is my guess or guesstimate as the popular phrase has it. NDA will get 300 plus/minus 10%. If I turn out to be right I’ll have roast turkey for lunch or else eat a humble pie — not eat crow because I’m not an US-trained psephologist — and admit my error.