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Where have all the psephologists gone?

delhi Updated: May 12, 2007 03:37 IST

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati was not the only one to win hands down on Friday when the results were declared. The weatherman also did; he beat the psephologists.

The weatherman had forecast the possibility of a thundery development, the pollster a hung assembly in Uttar Pradesh. By Friday evening, as Mayawati settled down to hold her first media conference as heir-apparent to rule Uttar Pradesh for the next five years, it seemed that both the weatherman and the pollster were off the mark.

It was a hot for most of the day and there was none of the “thundery development” the Met department had forecast. But sometime around eight in the evening, the clouds gathered and the thunder roared, as predicted, and it started pouring. The weatherman had been proved right but the pollsters had no such luck.

Yes, the BSP did emerge the single largest party as the three exit polls — split in seven phases like the elections — had predicted. But the pollsters had also suggested that there were limits to how far Mayawati’s social engineering would take her.

In a 403-member assembly, the cumulative NDTV exit poll put a limit of 127 seats and Star TV’s predictions gave her no more than 137 seats. The most generous of them — and in hindsight, the closest to the results — CNN-IBN, was also nowhere close to reality; its psephologists were only willing to place a wager on the BSP getting somewhere between 152 and 168 seats. Survey firms commissioned by two other TV channels, Times Now and India TV, did not do any better either.

But Mayawati was long convinced that the sky was the limit and stayed away from even talking of poll alliances. “There is no need to join hands with any other party,” she recently insisted while her party spokesman promised to spring a “big surprise.” She kept her word. So did the weatherman.

Email author: atikku@hindustantimes.com