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The Curious Case of a Study on Bihar Elections: Kamal Nayan Choubey and Nishant Kumar


[This article is a response to the lead news-cum-article written by Sanjay Kumar and Suhas Palshikar and published in The Indian Express as well as Jansatta on 7th October about the pre-poll survey related to the Bihar Legislative Assembly Election. We had sent this article to the The Indian Express, but they could not give any space to our views. – Authors]

Politically, Bihar is one of the most complex states in India. It is often difficult to provide a substantially cogent electoral prediction because of the multivariate factors that impact the political outcome in the state. The other obvious reason is the political maturity of the electorates of Bihar, who decide the fate of the candidates based on several considerations including caste orientation and the candidates’ performance in the past. Still many analysts have tried to provide a picture regarding the possible outcome of electoral fray for the Bihar Assembly Elections based on quantitative surveys. The opinion poll conducted by Lokniti-CSDS and published in The Indian Express and Jansatta, two of India’s most respected newspapers, on 7th October, 2015 was one such attempt. In the last two decades election studies in India has seen a dramatic evolution with poll surveys gaining immense popularity among both analysts as well as electorates. Lokniti-CSDS has been one of the most reliable institutions for such studies because unlike other market oriented institutions it has always focused on serious academic and intellectual understanding of electoral competition. Many reputed academicians have been part of its election studies and its publications have given new dimensions to the study and understandings about the dynamics and churnings of Indian democracy. However, the pressure of media as well as the rush to publish opinion polls seems to have affected the way CSDS-Lokniti is known to release its analysis.

The news-item in the front page of The Indian Express read ‘Advantage BJP as Bihar gets ready’. It was claimed in that news-cum-article that BJP led NDA had an advantageous edge in the forthcoming Bihar Assembly Elections over Nitish Kumar’s Grand Alliance. We are not sure whether it was the editors who chose the headline to attract attention of its readers or it was consciously decided by the poll conductors based on their analysis. Whatever the case may be, the projection of ‘Advantage BJP’ exposes fissures at several levels, most of which are evident from the data itself. The publication also forces us to pose significant questions about the way in which such opinion polls are conducted both in terms of methodology as well as the analytical categories used to understand electoral politics in a complex society as in the case of Bihar. It further creates doubts about the aim of such published opinion polls. Continue reading The Curious Case of a Study on Bihar Elections: Kamal Nayan Choubey and Nishant Kumar