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Assembly Election 2017 exit polls: Why people look forward to these predictions ahead of main event

In all likelihood, no one, off the top of their heads, remembers the pre-poll survey figures for the Assembly elections in five states — Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur — provided by various agencies on or ahead of 1 February, the last day for their publication. And so, to refresh your memory, click here. Nevertheless, all the excitement on Thursday is reserved for the announcement of the exit poll predictions — that were delayed by the Election Commission for a day because polling in one constituency in Uttar Pradesh (Alapur) and one constituency in Uttarakhand (Karnprayag) had been postponed due to the death of Samajwadi Party and BSP candidates contesting from these constituencies.

Rewind to May 2016 and after results were out for the five states that went to the polls — Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, many cursed and criticised pollsters for yet again failing to assess the actual mood of the people. The very same thing had happened in elections held before that — those in Delhi, Bihar, Haryana, Maharashtra, the General Election in 2014 and prior ones.

 Assembly Election 2017 exit polls: Why people look forward to these predictions ahead of main event

Representational image. PTI

More often than not, the pollsters have proven to be wrong. After the actual results are out, analysts analyse who went wrong and who perhaps was the closest. Survey agencies get the flak and move on. And when the next elections roll around, they are back in business.

Despite their proven failures, people still look forward to these predictions, before the beginning of the polls as surveys and upon the conclusion of polls as exit polls. Surveys and exit polls add colour to the great democratic festival called elections. It generates business, generates popular excitement those living in states concerned and outside, kills post-poll boredom and makes the wait for the final result interesting.

It is also true that while the pollsters often fail to predict the actual numbers, a poll of polls — an aggregate of all surveys and predictions — gives a broad trend that help work out which way the results could go. It spices up the debate around the outcome, as also keeps the momentum of the polling process going till the votes are counted.

Take the pre-poll predictions of various agencies and media houses for Uttar Pradesh for instance. India Today-Axis on 31 January predicted 180 to 191 seats to the BJP, 166 to 178 seats to the Samajwadi Party-Congress combine and 39 to 43 for the BSP.

Times Now-VMR on 31 January predicted 202 seats for the BJP, 147 seats to Samajwadi Party-Congress combine and 47 for the BSP. ABP News-Lokniti gave 118 to 128 seats to the BJP, 187 to 197 to the Samajwadi Party-Congress combine and 76 to 86 seats to the BSP. VDP Associates gave 207 seats to the BJP, 128 to the Samajwadi Party-Congress and 58 to the BSP. The Week-Hansa Research gave 192 to 196 seats to the BJP, 178 to 182 to the Samajwadi Party-Congress and 20 to 24 to the BSP.

All eyes are now on 5.30 pm when exit polls predictions will start coming in. Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking ownership of the Uttar Pradesh elections, Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi coming together and the presence of AAP in Punjab and Goa has made these elections even more interesting with the results sure to have far-reaching consequences for the states concerned and the national polity.

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Updated Date: Mar 09, 2017 10:10:39 IST