THE POLL MARKET - YOUR OPINION NEVER COUNTS
Polls are marketable commodity. Polls are held to elicit opinions from the public, from those who can think, like those above 18 years of age. But these opinions are traded in the "Grand Poll Mall", where barter system is applied. "Two gallons of liquid for one vote. If you have ten votes in your family, we offer 40 gallons if you vote "whole poll" (like wholesale) to our party". The bargaining goes like that. Even if the ten voters drink the whole of forty gallons of drink and forget to come to the booth, it does not matter. These votes are sure to go to the other party and so, there is no loss, no gain. Zero loss or Zero gain, as per SiPoll. Or, votes are traded with wads of money too. Sarees, bangles, silver, steel, school bags for children etc., are commodities that suddenly see jump in sales. Communists call it consumerism. Rightists say it will help GDP grow. Congress says, "We can again re-consume the same after polls". It will add to the GDP twice, pre-poll and post-poll. Dr. Amartyan Sen tells Bakha Dutt that this kind of trading is necessary for poor countries like India (He is in America) to push the people above poverty line at least one day in five years. He pitches for polls daily so that poor can live happily ever after. Awardee literates return their old awards and start writing again hoping they too can sell their wisdom for awards again adding to GDP and Barkha continues talking, Arnob shouting, Tharoor thinking about the next one, Digvijay tweeting, Sanjay Jha fooling himself, Kejriwal spying on his ministers and Rahul spending time and money in Aspen. The drama continues.
We imbibed all that is bad in the British system of Democracy. Charles Dickens, one of the best satirists and novelists that described real life tragedy also in the best vocabulary, wrote a master piece in 1812, called "The Pickwick Papers". In that he described an election to a remote county council. It is apt we take it verbatim here.
'Spirited contest, my dear sir,' said the little man.
'I'm delighted to hear it,' said Mr. Pickwick, rubbing his hands. 'I like to see sturdy patriotism, on whatever side it is called forth--and so it's a spirited contest?'
'Oh, yes,' said the little man, 'very much so indeed. We have opened all the public-houses in the place, and left our adversary nothing but the beer-shops-masterly stroke of policy that, my dear Sir, eh?' The little man smiled complacently, and took a large pinch of snuff.
'And what are the probabilities as to the result of the contest?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Why, doubtful, my dear Sir; rather doubtful as yet,' replied the little man. 'Fizkin's people have got three-and-thirty voters in the lock-up coach-house at the White Hart.'
'In the coach-house!' said Mr. Pickwick, considerably astonished by this second stroke of policy.
'They keep 'em locked up there till they want 'em,' resumed the little man. 'The effect of that is, you see, to prevent our getting at them; and even if we could, it would be of no use, for they keep them very drunk on purpose. Smart fellow Fizkin's agent--very smart fellow indeed.'
Mr. Pickwick stared, but said nothing.
'We are pretty confident, though,' said Mr. Perker, sinking his voice almost to a whisper. 'We had a little tea-party here, last night--five-and-forty women, my dear sir--and gave every one of 'em a green parasol when she went away.'
'A parasol!' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Fact, my dear Sir, fact. Five-and-forty green parasols, at seven and sixpence a-piece. All women like finery--extraordinary the effect of those parasols. Secured all their husbands, and half their brothers--beats stockings, and flannel, and all that sort of thing hollow. My idea, my dear Sir, entirely. Hail, rain, or sunshine, you can't walk half a dozen yards up the street, without encountering half a dozen green parasols.'
Here the little man indulged in a convulsion of mirth, which was only checked by the entrance of a third party.
This was when we did not have net, TV, WhatApp,etc., Now days changed. People sit in AC rooms and trade votes. These are polls before polls. These new gadgets will not allow you to form an opinion. But they want to sell your opinion, which you have not yet formed. Suppose you are busy in Office, pat comes a message. "Do you like to vote for A.Caste or B.Cost?" In your busy schedule, you press A. And they sell it to the party concerned. This market is called "Opinion Poll Maha Golmall" It goes on like that.
A month or two before polls they go for discount. "75% discount on Opinion polls". Special Discount if you are in an alliance.
Jailoo walks in, with bail papers. That is his ID. He shows ID and says "I am from JRD. I want an opinion poll. What is the rate going?" The GolMall man replies, "We conducted a survey on whatsApp yesterday. We got responses from 10, 667 WhatsApp respondents. We have three different results. Which one you want? "I want 67% vote for JRD" "Done. Costs you three hundred truck loads of Chara" "But I am out of power for ten years. I ate the whole Chara during the loss of power days. Can you give concession?"
In the meantime, Pitish walks in. His face is pitiful. "Why are you so distressed, you too convicted?" asks Jailoo.
"No! I may not be able to fight alone. Searching for partners.Will you join me?"
"Yes! But you called my rule Jungle Raj. How can I convince my party men?"
"Don't worry. I purchased the Media in Whole Poll. They will not say a word on this. Instead they praise us for taking on Modi together. AK will play some drama or other daily."
Jailoo had no other go. He accepted on the spot. They made an alliance. Pappu walked in with a loin cloth around his waist to protect his honor. Jailoo, Pitish, the GolMall man, all other men and women in the Mall laughed together and individually for an hour in concert. "Why are you laughing? I am following Gandhian way. Modi wears Suits. Until he wears Suits I will wear this. And I will not change the cloth till 2019." Jailoo, Pitish, the GolMall Man, all other men and women in the Mall put masks on their noses to avoid the stinking smell. But, Jailoo saw an opportunity. "Will you join us? I am convict, you are corrupt and Pitish is inept. It rhymes well." So, he too joined.
Since they are in alliance, they bargained. The GolMall man offered to sell the 67% poll to the "secular alliance" at one truck load of black notes. It was accepted. Next day all channels, all news papers, all tabloids, all columnists stopped biting nails and started saying "Secular alliance is grand success" with 67% vote share and 242 seats out of 243 seats. One deal was done.
See what Dickens says in The Pickwick Papers.
It was late in the evening when Mr. Pickwick and his companions, assisted by Sam, dismounted from the roof of the Eatanswill coach. Large blue silk flags were flying from the windows of the Town Arms Inn, and bills were posted in every sash, intimating, in gigantic letters, that the Honorable Samuel Slumkey's committee sat there daily. A crowd of idlers were assembled in the road, looking at a hoarse man in the balcony, who was apparently talking himself very red in the face in Mr. Slumkey's behalf; but the force and point of whose arguments were somewhat impaired by the perpetual beating of four large drums which Mr. Fizkin's committee had stationed at the street corner. There was a busy little man beside him, though, who took off his hat at intervals and motioned to the people to cheer, which they regularly did, most enthusiastically; and as the red- faced gentleman went on talking till he was redder in the face than ever, it seemed to answer his purpose quite as well as if anybody had heard him.
The Pickwickians had no sooner dismounted than they were surrounded by a branch mob of the honest and independent, who forthwith set up three deafening cheers, which being responded to by the main body (for it's not at all necessary for a crowd to know what they are cheering about), swelled into a tremendous roar of triumph, which stopped even the red-faced man in the balcony.
'Hurrah!' shouted the mob, in conclusion.
'One cheer more,' screamed the little fugleman in the balcony, and out shouted the mob again, as if lungs were cast-iron, with steel works.
'Slumkey for ever!' roared the honest and independent.
'Slumkey for ever!' echoed Mr. Pickwick, taking off his hat. 'No Fizkin!' roared the crowd.
'Certainly not!' shouted Mr. Pickwick. 'Hurrah!' And then there was another roaring, like that of a whole menagerie when the elephant has rung the bell for the cold meat.
'Who is Slumkey?'whispered Mr. Tupman.
'I don't know,' replied Mr. Pickwick, in the same tone. 'Hush. Don't ask any questions. It's always best on these occasions to do what the mob do.'
'But suppose there are two mobs?' suggested Mr. Snodgrass.
'Shout with the largest,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
There are three noteworthy points here. Crowd cheers if prompted, knowing not what they are cheering for.Whatever the adversary says, the other contestant sees it is drowned in the noise of drum beats, now called 24X7 TV Channels. Cheer with the largest group. It is safe for your body.
This, in a nutshell, describes the Opinion Polls. You need not have an opinion. The Cheer Leaders, called pollsters spread your opinion which is not your opinion as your opinion and try to change the opinion of others, who too may not have formed an opinion but may be tempted to form an opinion based on your opinion which is not actually your opinion. This is called the the swing vote phenomenon. The swing voters swing this side, that side, back and forth, round and round until they are exhausted and stop at one place and press the button that is immediately seen and thus the election is anybody's game.
This Opinion Poll Mall business, that was wholesale once upon a time has forayed into the retail too. IT people invented WheresAPP, HowsAPP, WhysAPP etc., to cater to the new needs. There were HeresAPP, TheresAPP etc., too for small businessmen. So, all commercial spaces in the towns and cities are occupied by the A to Z Voters, the Nelson's eyes, the Trojans, the Ciceros, Caesars, Brutus, Antonys etc., and they offered discounts after discounts. But as polls neared the rates increased. Indians started to feel the feel of Las Vegas. ATBM(Any Time Black Money) kiosks were opened by the Swiss, German, Mauritian Banks etc, in every street corner. After the commercial spaces were exhausted, small businessmen opened road side shops thus offending the Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji, Idly, Dosa, Noodles, Thai Food, Mexican food, the Gol Gappah walahs whose business, they feared would be affected. Civil activists objected to the traffic jams and were offered fruit jam as a respite while in the jam. The Civic officials, who took enough bribes from all street vendors, convinced the Vada Pav, Gol Gappa, Idly, Wada, Dosa, Noodles Wallahas etc.,that they would see increase in business with crowds thronging the Opinion Polls counters and on this count took more bribes. Punters opened their hunting counters to bet on who wins basing on opinion polls. OB vans were parked in the middle of the road covering the opinion polls and at the same time attacking traffic police for not clearing the traffic. All are busy.
TV studios are too busy counting TRPs. There is immense competition among them to steal the show. They took sides leaving the Right side to fend for itself. We are reminded again of Charles Dickens where the Blues and Buffs have two papers that never stop their abuses of the other party until they get exhausted. (This results in a final show down at an inn with the Editors of both taking to fist fight. It is out of place here though we saw this in Madison Square in New York, what Editors can stoop to)
Here the little man indulged in a convulsion of mirth, which was only checked by the entrance of a third party.
This was a tall, thin man, with a sandy-coloured head inclined to baldness, and a face in which solemn importance was blended with a look of unfathomable profundity. He was dressed in a long brown surtout, with a black cloth waistcoat, and drab trousers. A double eyeglass dangled at his waistcoat; and on his head he wore a very low-crowned hat with a broad brim. The new-comer was introduced to Mr. Pickwick as Mr. Pott, the editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE. After a few preliminary remarks, Mr. Pott turned round to Mr. Pickwick, and said with solemnity--
'This contest excites great interest in the metropolis, sir?'
'I believe it does,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'To which I have reason to know,' said Pott, looking towards Mr. Perker for corroboration--'to which I have reason to know that my article of last Saturday in some degree contributed.'
'Not the least doubt of it,' said the little man.
'The press is a mighty engine, sir,' said Pott.
Mr. Pickwick yielded his fullest assent to the proposition.
'But I trust, sir,' said Pott, 'that I have never abused the enormous power I wield. I trust, sir, that I have never pointed the noble instrument which is placed in my hands, against the sacred bosom of private life, or the tender breast of individual reputation; I trust, sir, that I have devoted my energies to--to endeavours-- humble they may be, humble I know they are--to instill those principles of--which--are--'
Here the editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE, appearing to ramble, Mr. Pickwick came to his relief, and said--
'And what, Sir,' said Pott--'what, Sir, let me ask you as an impartial man, is the state of the public mind in London, with reference to my contest with the INDEPENDENT?'
'Greatly excited, no doubt,' interposed Mr. Perker, with a look of slyness which was very likely accidental.
'The contest,' said Pott, 'shall be prolonged so long as I have health and strength, and that portion of talent with which I am gifted. From that contest, Sir, although it may unsettle men's minds and excite their feelings, and render them incapable for the discharge of the everyday duties of ordinary life; from that contest, sir, I will never shrink, till I have set my heel upon the Eatanswill INDEPENDENT. I wish the people of London, and the people of this country to know, sir, that they may rely upon me --that I will not desert them, that I am resolved to stand by them, Sir, to the last.' 'Your conduct is most noble, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick; and he grasped the hand of the magnanimous Pott. 'You are, sir, I perceive, a man of sense and talent,' said Mr. Pott, almost breathless with the vehemence of his patriotic declaration. 'I am most happy, sir, to make the acquaintance of such a man.'
'And I,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'feel deeply honoured by this expression of your opinion. Allow me, sir, to introduce you to my fellow-travellers, the other corresponding members of the club I am proud to have founded.'
'I shall be delighted,' said Mr. Pott.
Mr. Pickwick withdrew, and returning with his friends, presented them in due form to the editor of the Eatanswill GAZETTE.
Without the knowledge of the TV anchors who are verbally fighting with each other, the polls were over, the winners won, the losers lost and no opinion poll came closer to the result. Why did it happen? Panelists, who were biting nails till then, came to studios, discussed what went wrong, took their money and flew to Switzerland. What exactly happened? Read this interesting piece from Pickwick papers. The language is rusty as it is spoken by a rustic attendant.
The noise and bustle which ushered in the morning were sufficient to dispel from the mind of the most romantic visionary in existence, any associations but those which were immediately connected with the rapidly-approaching election. The beating of drums, the blowing of horns and trumpets, the shouting of men, and tramping of horses, echoed and re--echoed through the streets from the earliest dawn of day; and an occasional fight between the light skirmishers of either party at once enlivened the preparations, and agreeably diversified their character. 'Well, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, as his valet appeared at his bedroom door, just as he was concluding his toilet; 'all alive to-day, I suppose?'
'Reg'lar game, sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'our people's a-collecting down at the Town Arms, and they're a-hollering themselves hoarse already.'
'Ah,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'do they seem devoted to their party, Sam?'
'Never see such dewotion in my life, Sir.'
'Energetic, eh?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Uncommon,' replied Sam; 'I never see men eat and drink so much afore. I wonder they ain't afeer'd o' bustin'.'
'That's the mistaken kindness of the gentry here,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Wery likely,' replied Sam briefly.
'Fine, fresh, hearty fellows they seem,' said Mr. Pickwick, glancing from the window.
'Wery fresh,' replied Sam; 'me and the two waiters at the Peacock has been a-pumpin' over the independent woters as supped there last night.'
'Pumping over independent voters!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'Yes,' said his attendant, 'every man slept vere he fell down; we dragged 'em out, one by one, this mornin', and put 'em under the pump, and they're in reg'lar fine order now. Shillin' a head the committee paid for that 'ere job.'
'Can such things be!' exclaimed the astonished Mr. Pickwick.
'Lord bless your heart, sir,' said Sam, 'why where was you half baptised?--that's nothin', that ain't.'
'Nothing?'said Mr. Pickwick. 'Nothin' at all, Sir,' replied his attendant. 'The night afore the last day o' the last election here, the opposite party bribed the barmaid at the Town Arms, to hocus the brandy-and-water of fourteen unpolled electors as was a-stoppin' in the house.'
'What do you mean by "hocussing" brandy-and-water?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Puttin' laud'num in it,' replied Sam. 'Blessed if she didn't send 'em all to sleep till twelve hours arter the election was over. They took one man up to the booth, in a truck, fast asleep, by way of experiment, but it was no go--they wouldn't poll him; so they brought him back, and put him to bed again.' 'Strange practices, these,' said Mr. Pickwick; half speaking to himself and half addressing Sam.
'Not half so strange as a miraculous circumstance as happened to my own father, at an election time, in this wery place, Sir,' replied Sam.
'What was that?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Why, he drove a coach down here once,' said Sam; ''lection time came on, and he was engaged by vun party to bring down woters from London. Night afore he was going to drive up, committee on t' other side sends for him quietly, and away he goes vith the messenger, who shows him in;--large room--lots of gen'l'm'n--heaps of papers, pens and ink, and all that 'ere. "Ah, Mr. Weller," says the gen'l'm'n in the chair, "glad to see you, sir; how are you?"--"Wery well, thank 'ee, Sir," says my father; "I hope you're pretty middlin," says he.--"Pretty well, thank'ee, Sir," says the gen'l'm'n; "sit down, Mr. Weller--pray sit down, sir." So my father sits down, and he and the gen'l'm'n looks wery hard at each other. "You don't remember me?" said the gen'l'm'n.--"Can't say I do," says my father.--"Oh, I know you," says the gen'l'm'n: "know'd you when you was a boy," says he.--"Well, I don't remember you," says my father.-- "That's wery odd," says the gen'l'm'n."--"Wery," says my father.--"You must have a bad mem'ry, Mr. Weller," says the gen'l'm'n.--"Well, it is a wery bad 'un," says my father.--"I thought so," says the gen'l'm'n. So then they pours him out a glass of wine, and gammons him about his driving, and gets him into a reg'lar good humour, and at last shoves a twenty-pound note into his hand. "It's a wery bad road between this and London," says the gen'l'm'n.--"Here and there it is a heavy road," says my father.--" 'Specially near the canal, I think," says the gen'l'm'n.--"Nasty bit that 'ere," says my father.-- "Well, Mr. Weller," says the gen'l'm'n, "you're a wery good whip, and can do what you like with your horses, we know. We're all wery fond o' you, Mr. Weller, so in case you should have an accident when you're bringing these here woters down, and should tip 'em over into the canal vithout hurtin' of 'em, this is for yourself," says he.--"Gen'l'm'n, you're wery kind," says my father, "and I'll drink your health in another glass of wine," says he; vich he did, and then buttons up the money, and bows himself out. You wouldn't believe, sir,' continued Sam, with a look of inexpressible impudence at his master, 'that on the wery day as he came down with them woters, his coach WAS upset on that 'ere wery spot, and ev'ry man on 'em was turned into the canal.'
'And got out again?' inquired Mr. Pickwick hastily.
'Why,' replied Sam very slowly, 'I rather think one old gen'l'm'n was missin'; I know his hat was found, but I ain't quite certain whether his head was in it or not. But what I look at is the hex-traordinary and wonderful coincidence, that arter what that gen'l'm'n said, my father's coach should be upset in that wery place, and on that wery day!'
If you still rely on opinion polls and believe on analysts like me, I pity you. Ultimately it depends on the solid and liquid policies of the Political Parties.