May 23rd is still a long way away and it is hardly surprising that that the pre election campaigning is already reaching a crescendo. Recent markets trends appear to hint that the mini-war with Pakistan may actually help the ruling NDA. In fact, it is also believed that the sharp rise in FPI flows to about $5 billion since late February was on the back of expectations that a stable government would come up at the centre; whatever it means. But in the midst of all the noise, the real trends are never obvious. Here is why.
Tyranny of English News
If one were to watch any of the English news channels, they would be led to believe that May 23rd is just a formality. That is an over simplification. Firstly, what do English news channels really represent? Let us look at the statistics. Out of the total TV viewership in India, just about 7% is news and just 7% of this group watches English News. Effectively, for a 0.49% viewership, there are more than 20 English channels fighting for mindshare. That gives you an idea of what and how much they really represent. Typically, most of these English channels would represent a very small group of people in largely urban areas only. As a barometer of the pulse of the Indian voter, these English channels amount to little. That really explains why their election predictions are way off the mark. They just don’t have their skin in the game.
Real story is elsewhere
More often than not, the tyranny of English news tends to draw us away from the real issues. These are the real issues that people are interested in. Why is jobs creation on the wane at a time when it should be the other way round? Why are farmers still under distress despite the MSP announced? What is this slip between the cup and the lip? The one thing that people do vote for is visible growth. It does not matter how much the TV channels may try to sell an idea. The voter at the booth will only vote on growth that is visible. We have seen governments like NDA in 2004 and the TDP also in 2004 were ejected from power because they did not have their skin in the game. May 23rd will ultimately belong to the party or set of parties that can convince the voters that they can make a tangible difference to their life.
Plus many X factors
Any election is unique because of its X-factors. What if the opposition plans to put up a joint front in most of the critical states? What if Priyanka Gandhi manages to sway women and youth voters in the last one month? Does a strong leader really matter; at least Chhattisgarh showed that it doesn’t. The moral of the story is that we are basing out estimates of outcomes on some internalized assumptions. As we have seen in the past, it does not work! ©