How and why of Indian political ‘jugaad’

Book: The Verdict: Decoding India’s Elections

Author: Prannoy Roy and Dorab R. Sopariwala

Publisher: Penguin

Pages: 289; Price: Rs 599

Democracy lies at the very core of every Indian’s DNA, reads the opening line of this book The Verdict. Moreover, just like a human body, the worlds’ largest democracy too has undergone series of changes from being at its infant stage post-independence to the youthful stages of uncertainty and unpredictability, to the existing era of stable and unipolar concentration of power.

If anyone, has come closest to understanding the entire dynamics of the electoral process and its outcomes, undoubtedly it has been the authors of this book, Prannoy Roy and Dorab R. Sopariwala. Masters in their own art of covering elections and collaborating data for building up opinion polls, The Verdict seems to be an earnest effort by both to let in the readers into their domain to electoral calculations and predictions.

It covers the entire gambit of electoral process in India, right up to the opinion polls and actual results into five parts. And the authors have ensured that nowhere the flow is broken, which gives the reader an experience of moving from one decade to the other. Aptly inserted statistical tables’ makes it even more accurate and informative read.

As a reader, one is introduced to several interesting facts about evolution of Indian democracy and the democratic process. Interestingly, today when we talk of the term ‘anti-incumbency’, this book reminds us that the term was coined between the period of 1977 to 2002, by none other than Dorab Sopariwala, one of the author of this book who is also a renowned psephologist and market researcher.

The book while highlighting several positives attached to Indian democracy and electoral process, applauds the rise of women voters. It mentions that the current high level of women’s participation has been a major development in India’s democracy. In 1962, the turnout of women was only 47 per cent, yet by 2014, it had shot up to 66 per cent – up by nearly 19 percentage points. On the other hand, men’s turnout grew by only 5 per cent over the same period.

When elections come near, we often ask one question. Are opinion polls trustworthy? With enormous expertise in the field of opinion polls, Roy has taken utmost effort to answer it in the best possible manner through this book. From street corner opinion polls to house-to-house opinion polls, polling booth-based exit polls, post polls, insta polls and social media polls.

The conclusion that the book draws largely matches up with the actual verdict given by the electorate, despite been written prior to recently held General elections. Only statement that could be an interest of debate for academicians and students of politics is the one where authors claim that the Indian voter is always ahead of the politician, constantly pushing, punishing and teaching the politician a lesson or two when necessary. On this front, what happened in Goa and Karnataka proves it otherwise. One never knows, in the coming months Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala might embark upon yet another kind of opinion poll based on the trend of defections. Will they or won’t they remains the question, for the politicians as well as the authors too.