New Delhi, Oct. 21: The Congress today alleged that opinion polls on the upcoming elections were being manipulated to influence public opinion but stopped short of directly accusing media houses and political rivals of distortion.
“Psephologists use scientific methods and their findings are by and large correct, (with) small margins of error,” Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit told reporters.
“But it’s peculiar (that) highly reputable companies doing the surveys are showing divergent results. Their reliability and professional integrity are coming into doubt. It is a matter of serious concern for all of us.”
The comments mark a shift of stance by the Congress. The party that has umpteen times dismissed pre-poll surveys as bogus is now arguing that an “honest and independent survey” can provide correct predictions.
Talking of “sponsored surveys”, Dikshit said: “If the same methodology throws up completely different outputs, we should ponder if we are making a mockery of the poll or the data is being manipulated.”
Giving details of recent surveys on the upcoming Delhi elections, Dikshit said: “If one survey says 24 (seats) for a party, another puts the figure at 47. We can understand if two surveys show a difference of two or three per cent votes, but a difference of 20-30 seats in an Assembly of 70 cannot be explained.”
He went on: “They are obviously being presented in a particular form to mould public opinion. Questions also arise (whether) they are doing a professional job. We have knowledge that the same survey by one company, given to two media firms, was shown differently, with different results.”
Sources said the Congress had done comprehensive research and gathered evidence of manipulation both at the stages of data election and processing.
“We found out that it is part of election strategy to make certain kinds of projections,” a senior leader said.
“In some cases, the data collectors in the field are told the survey is being done for a particular party. In two cases, we got to know the data was changed in the final stage.”
Dikshit was cautious when asked if media houses were manipulating the data or political parties were getting surveys distorted by the companies.
“We are not blaming anybody. We are only saying that it is peculiar to see the same methodology giving out such varying results,” he said.
“After all, there cannot be two or three winners in an election. There must be something seriously wrong with what is going on. And we can’t deny that these polls influence the voters’ minds.”
The Congress was rattled when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) recently cited a survey that purportedly showed the AAP as leading the race for Delhi and its leader Arvind Kejriwal as the most popular candidate for chief minister.
The BJP too has released its own survey, showing an easy victory for itself. Although the BJP’s claim is likely to be viewed as propaganda, the AAP survey has made an impact as it was carried out by celebrated psephologist Yogendra Yadav, who has now joined Kejriwal’s party.
The Congress alleges that Yadav is using his professional credibility as an electoral tool to influence public opinion.
“This is a new form of paid news and the Election Commission should take note,” a Congress leader said.
Asked why psephologists would harbour an anti-Congress bias, Dikshit said: “We don’t know, but ask these companies — they all are highly reputable professional agencies.”