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How Bihar Poll Tally Went Awry

The counting of ballots in Bihar threw many a pollsters and TV anchors off the guard, exposing the fact that they are mostly in speculative mode, writes Pulse Media Critic

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Nov 30 2015 3:32PM | Updated Date: Nov 30 2015 3:32PM

The biggest news last week of course were the Bihar elections, and this time we saw the media get it horribly wrong, with most news channels initially predicting a victory for the BJP. 


As the vote count began and the initial numbers rolled in, Dr. Prannoy Roy from NDTV, who had like many others predicted a victory for the BJP coalition, looked satisfied. He even declared how they (NDTV) had got it right during their exit polls. 


On ‘Times Now’ Arnab Goswami too had started congratulating the BJP spokesperson on their victory. Other channels too began dissecting the election results, panellists and experts offering opinions on why the Mahagatbandhan (Janata Dal United+) lost, and what factors led to BJP’s victory. 


In just over an hour, the tables started to turn with trends showing that BJP was losing and JDU+ was way ahead. The channels that had so far been chewing on BJP’s victory were now eating humble pie. 


While ‘Times Now’ suddenly shifted position from congratulating the BJP to discussing if communalism and beef politics had hurt BJP’s image, NDTV looked confused.  Dr Roy repeated several times how something like this had never happened before. Yogendra Yadav who was a panellist on NDTV tried to explain the difference in figures by telling how local channels were putting out information different to national channels. The same panellists who had been dissecting why the BJP won were suddenly discussing how it lost! 


Though not everyone got it wrong; CNN-IBN had the boastful Bhupendra Chaubey screaming at the top of his voice about how they had got it right. Chaubey had been writing on his blog periscope for quite some time that he expected the JDU-RJD-Congress combine to win and when he was proved right there was no end to his jubilation. 


The boastful rant got quite annoying after some time as in interview after interview with spokespersons of various parties the anchor was seen fishing for compliments. At one time Chaubey even shamelessly asked two political party spokespersons if they would like to congratulate IBN for getting it right! 


But just a few days ago CNN IBN was getting hammered on twitter for not showing the exit polls they had promised. According to reports, the channel decided to drop the exit polls as their results were showing a major victory for the JDU-led combine and had predicted just about 70+ seats for the BJP. 


Axis APM, the agency which had conducted the exit polls for the channel released their result on their own website. CNN IBN instead showed an aggregate of other exit polls which showed that JDU was slightly ahead of the BJP. Though IBN tried to claim victory by showing how ‘they got it first’ and how they ‘got it right’ right from the exit polls. They conveniently forgot how they didn’t show the exit polls which they apparently found untrustworthy!


The Bihar election results were confusing for most viewers at the beginning because of the confusion in the channels showing different trends. But there is no confusion in the fact that the exit polls got it hopelessly wrong in projecting a close battle between the two main contenders, ie the BJP-led coalition and the Nitish-Lalu-Congress combine, which the results showed was simply not the case. 


And this isn’t the first time exit polls have got it so wrong; maybe there’s a need to reflect if we need these exit polls at all. The confusion on the counting day could have also been avoided had the channels waited for the counting to get over. Even though NDTV at least had the courtesy to recognise and even apologise for the error they made during counting (Dr. Roy’s apology video has gone viral) but many other channels like Times Now, simply forgot the blunder they made and went about with the daily news business as if nothing had gone wrong. 


In all this confusion, the other important election that was totally ignored was Aung Suu Kyi’s landslide victory in Myanmar.