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Unexpected, not inexplicable

The HT-CSDS Survey has thrown few surprises. But no, they don?t defy explanation.

india Updated: Oct 29, 2003 00:53 IST

The HT-CSDS Survey that we have been bringing to you since October 20 has generated a lot of excitement — and healthy debate. This has been as much for the depth and scope of the Survey, as for some of the results that it has thrown up. Yes, there have been a few surprises. But no, they don’t defy explanation.

Take the case of Chaudhary Prem Singh, president, Delhi Congress, whose MLA’s report card was published in the Hindustan Times on October 24. Prem Singh, who has never lost an election in his life, was rated ‘F’ — failed.

Did this mean that Prem Singh was about to lose this time? And if he won, would that automatically suggest that we had gone terribly wrong? The answer, in both cases, is no.

The MLA’s report card doesn't reflect whether he/she will win or not. It tells you what a (scientifically arrived at) sample of voters in his/her constituency think of his/her performance as their legislator.

Neither does the MLA’s personal rating mirror what voters think of the prospects of the party he represents. Understanding this distinction is crucial. An MLA rated ‘A’ may lose an election because the party he represents is unpopular. For somebody rated ‘F’, the converse may be true.

The Ambedkar Nagar seat is an excellent case study. Voters in the constituency rated Prem Singh poorly for his performance, but the Congress prospects of retaining the seat are extremely bright. In short: election results aren’t dependent entirely on the performance of sitting legislators.

In order to make this clear, we are adding a feature to our MLAs’ report card: in addition to the legislator’s personal rating, we will also give you the voter’s perception of his/her party’s prospects for that seat. The two, as you will see, may often not match.

There’s yet another apparent anomaly and it’s demonstrated best by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s report card. When Delhi was asked who it thought would be the best chief minister, it voted overwhelmingly in her favour. But in her own constituency, she gets a ‘B’ for her performance as an MLA. For somebody rated so highly as a chief ministerial candidate, this rating is poor. But there’s a reason for it: voters understand that the two jobs are different. And their ratings reflect this.

The views of the voters interviewed in the course of the HT-CSDS Survey are also truly representative. Take Ambedkar Nagar: 195 people spread across 20 localities were interviewed; 50 per cent were women; 25 per cent were illiterate; 23 per cent were graduates; 32 per cent were upper caste Hindus; there were 37 per cent Dalits. These percentages mirror, almost exactly, the whole constituency’s voter composition.

This is true of every constituency that we have covered. It required no special effort on our part — that’s the beauty of random sampling done on such a large scale.

It’s also why we are confident that the HT-CSDS Survey will continue to inform the reader better than any other survey. Which is why you should watch this space.