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`Survey was self-contradictory'

Vinod Mehta, Additional Press Secretary to the Chief Minister of Haryana, writes:

"I would like to draw your attention to How India Voted — Verdict 2004, a post-poll survey conducted by a team of political scientists from the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and its Lokniti network, published in The Hindu on May 20, 2004. The survey says that in Haryana the non-performance of the State Government and the high level of dissatisfaction of the people with the Chautala Government is the real reason why people turned away from the ruling INLD [Indian National Lok Dal].

"A comprehensive study of the above mentioned survey clearly indicates the `hidden political agenda' of the CSDS survey team as all the seven questions put up to the people were of a totally negative nature and not a single positive question was put up. I would like to further add that the survey was also self-contradictory as 52 per cent of the people disagreed that there had been no development in Haryana under Om Prakash Chautala's rule while only 43 per cent of the people agreed with this question. In addition to this, 46 per cent of the people disagreed that Chautala's Government had not helped the farmers while only 42 per cent agreed with the question. This clearly indicates that the people of the State had opined that there had been development in Haryana under Chautala's rule and help had also been provided to the farmers by the Government. Hence, it is not appropriate to say that the non-performance of the State Government was the factor that worked against the ruling INLD in Haryana. I would also like to submit that Haryana has a population of 2.10 crores and is culturally divided into three regions of socio-political significance. Therefore, this survey based on merely 643 people is highly inappropriate to arrive at any conclusion. Further, it is also not revealed in the survey from which part of Haryana these samples were taken.

"The negative nature of all the seven questions put up to the people during the survey clearly shows that the above mentioned survey by the CSDS team was conducted with a `biased and negative approach.' Therefore, I strongly protest against the manner in which the survey was conducted and presented to the readers of your daily. I would like to bring to your notice that the top managers of CSDS have vested political interests in Haryana and there have been obvious reasons for them to oppose the present INLD leadership. A newspaper of national repute like yours should thoroughly look into the vested interests of the top managers of such survey agencies and they should not be permitted to use your forum to misguide the people. I hope that in future, you would take all necessary precautions while carrying out such surveys so that the right picture is presented to the readers in public interest."

`Allegations unsubstantiated'

Yogendra Yadav, Senior Fellow, CSDS and Co-Director, Lokniti, writes:

"I wish an official in such a responsible position had taken care to inform himself about surveys or taken advantage of our offer to answer queries about the National Election Study 2004 or simply read our analysis more carefully before levelling serious and unsubstantiated allegations. The CSDS is an independent social science research institution and not a private survey agency run by `managers.'

"Our post-poll surveys are meant to throw light on who voted for whom and why. We did it for all the major States and have done it in the past as well, including in 2001 when the INLD won the Assembly elections in Haryana. This time our task was to explain why the ruling party in Haryana faced a humiliating defeat. Our analysis showed that the Congress was the beneficiary of a negative vote against the INLD Government in the State. The article clearly stated that the Chautala Government was not rated poorly by the people on its developmental record or on its record in helping the farmers. (Mr. Mehta somewhat needlessly exerts to make this point and thinks that that is all that he needs to prove.) The popular discontent was really about the perception of widespread corruption and loot, the poor state of law and order and the autocratic style of the Government, for which the people blamed directly Mr. Chautala and his sons.

"I would think that intelligent politicians and their supporters would find such an analysis very useful in planning corrective actions. Mr. Mehta's response disappoints me on that score, even if I read it as a response by a party functionary rather than a Government official. Unfortunately, his letter may be seen as an illustration of what people dislike about the Chautala regime: intolerance of any criticism, blurring of lines between the official and the party political and the deadly mix of arrogance and ignorance.

"Mr. Mehta has mistaken the reporting format in the article to be the question wording and jumped to the conclusion that all the questions about Mr. Chautala's Government were framed negatively. Alternate questions on the Chautala regime in our survey were worded positively and negatively to ensure a fair response. The survey was carried out in all the 10 Lok Sabha constituencies of Haryana and was spread over 77 randomly chosen locations in 20 Assembly segments throughout the State.

"The sample included 83 per cent rural respondents and a fair representation of the major communities of the State (29 per cent Jats and 22 per cent Dalits). Respondents were assigned weightage to reflect the actual vote share of various parties so as to remove the possibility of over-representation of the supporters of any particular party. We welcome Mr. Mehta's interest in the methodology of the survey and are happy to share the sampling details and original questionnaires used in the field with him or any interested reader."

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