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More Than Modi, Rahul, Regional Players More Important In States: Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala

The duo spoke to BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha on the book, elections, and personalities

Photo Credit : Himanshu Kumar

Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala are veteran psephologists apart from being renowned media persons. Their recent book, The Verdict, is already being hailed as a classic on Indian election studies.  The duo spoke to BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha on the book, elections, and personalities.


Opposition alliances are yet to firm up in some states. Would you say that PM Modi’s chances of re-election were 50-50?    
Fifty- fifty should not be misunderstood. Fifty is a base and various factors can take him below 50 or above 50. It’s the performance that counts, and people judge you on that.

A recent BW Businessworld survey suggests that notwithstanding the Modi government’s dismal performance on the jobs front,  it will be re-elected, courtesy the post-Pulwama narrative.
Our experience in the field says that the jobs issue is very important. And, so is Pulwama. How much of  both these issues play out, however – we will have to see.

You say two thirds of the representatives get re-nominated.  Could the trend begun by Modi to replace a third of the candidates, neutralise local anti-incumbency?
Not just Modi, others too have done so before. Today, performance gets rewarded and lack of performance gets punished. Today, our growth rate is the highest since Independence because politicians understand that they will be thrown out if  they don’t perform. So, voters are pushing politicians to deliver and that is why the growth rate is ticking.

L. K. Advani used to say that national elections are a sum of local elections. Is  that happening ? 
Yes, that is what the data shows. In Advani’s time, regional parties used to get, say, 15 per cent of  the votes. Now, they get a massive 40 per cent of votes.

You say this election is more about smaller and  regional players, than Modi or Rahul. So, Modi’s attempt to make it a Presidential election is not succeeding.
Importance of regional leaders and issues has increased manifold. In many states Modi vs Rahul doesn’t matter as the national media shows. In Tamil Nadu, in Kerala in Andhra Pradesh it doesn’t matter. So it’s not national elections anymore – it’s federation of state elections now.

The book says two out of three opinion polls are correct, exit polls are even more accurate ...
We have talked about psephology in this book. As far as opinion polls are concerned, we have a long way to go. For instance, you need sample sizes of 1,00,000 in India but you can do with 2,000 in America – so heterogeneous are we. Here, people take shortcuts and don’t publish sample sizes and methodology.

Are women more likely to vote for women?

There is no evidence supporting this. There are other kinds of  biases, however. Women voters tend to vote less for the BJP than men – so the BJP is stronger among men.

Have you found evidence of Muslims voting tactically to defeat the BJP? 
We’ve found the opposite of this. In UP villages, we asked Muslims and found that in one village it’s 90 per cent for SP- BSP and 10 per cent for Congress. In another village, it was 60 per cent for SP- BSP and 40 per cent for Congress.

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