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Polls and the 'rebel' factor

By Kalpana Sharma

MUMBAI, OCT. 9. Even as media houses publish and telecast polls on the coming Maharashtra Assembly elections, senior pollsters admit that the margin of error this time could be considerably larger than in the Lok Sabha elections.

In the Lok Sabha elections, most polls went wrong by a substantial margin. The majority had predicted a victory for the National Democratic Alliance. Instead, the Congress won the largest number of seats.

In the Maharashtra Assembly elections, a senior pollster, who has conducted many polls, admits that they have no mechanism to assess the impact of the "rebel" candidates in this election. He said this factor had not been taken into account in any of the polls taken before the election. It is estimated that there are at least 100 such "rebel" candidates, possibly more. But the additional complication is the fact that while some are standing as independents, others have been given the tickets by established parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and even the Bharatiya Janata Party. Therefore, even identifying them is not easy and can only be done at the individual constituency level. Furthermore, in rural areas, voters relate to individuals and not necessarily to a party. Therefore, if the questions are posed relating to the party voters have chosen, the answers are unlikely to accurately represent the real position. This is such a localised factor that it will be difficult to assess voter preference," the poll expert, who did not wish to be named, told The Hindu.

The only stage at which some assessment can be done is during the exit polls. But here again, polling agents will have to go to the specific constituencies where rebels pose a threat to the official party candidates and pose questions accordingly.He suggested that now that most polling agencies had been alerted about the extent to which these rebels would play a role in the final verdict, attempts would be made to factor this in when exit polls were conducted. But the task would not be an easy one, he said.

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