Believe It or Not, Gimmicks Galore - The New Indian Express

Believe It or Not, Gimmicks Galore

Published: 02nd March 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 02nd March 2014 12:45 AM

You can tell that polls are around the corner when our politicians tend towards hyperbole and gimmickry. Here are some (random) examples culled from the papers on Wednesday alone, which readers are advised to absorb with a healthy dose of scepticism:

Former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha made an incredible claim in Chennai when he was reported in a section of the media as saying that a BJP-led government under Modi would solve both the Tamil Eelam and Sri Lankan fishermen issues in three months. If this at all were to happen, it would certainly make it straight into Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. It is odd that Sinha has previously stated that his party was against the formation of Tamil Eelam. Our paper has helpfully pointed out that he evaded queries over the differences on this between the party’s central and state units.

Some political parties will go to any length to get that extra attention from potential voters. Our Chennai edition had this headline: ‘Fish joins tea in BJP’s NaMo poll menu’. There was a poster of Narendra Modi in a Rajasthan-type headgear holding aloft a fish of indeterminate variety. The story was about how a mobile fish stall would sell fish at subsidised rates. On the very first day, as packets containing fish were being distributed, there was some scrumming which the party functionaries interpreted it to be a sign of enthusiasm not only for the fish packets but also the BJP in the state. Fishy?

Rajnath Singh threw out a different kind of bait to catch Muslim voters. He said it was a myth that BJP was not secular and urged them to give BJP a chance by voting for it. He even offered to apologise for any mistake that the party may have committed in the past. Opinion of course will be very divided over which ‘mistake’ Rajnath was alluding to. Any idea?

When polls are around the corner, can opinion polls be far behind? Unfailingly, papers splash poll findings on front pages. Sometimes you have to search really hard to find out when the poll was conducted, what the sample size was and other such crucial details. On Wednesday, we were informed that pollsters are ready to manipulate surveys—for a price. A sting operation by a Hindi news channel claimed that out of 13 polling agencies it approached, as many as 11 were ready to fiddle with their findings. One pollster even managed to project diametrically opposite findings for two different consumers. Should we be shocked?

My favourite was a non-political one: about how a driver of a Chennai Metropolitan Transport Corporation bus will probably go back to driving buses after having driven a bus off the iconic Gemini flyover (June 2012). The bus fell about 10 feet and turned turtle by the time it came to rest. About 40 passengers were injured and rushed to various hospitals. One witness had claimed he talked to a passenger who’d said the driver was seen talking on cellphone. An unnamed senior MTC official was quoted in one of the papers as saying the “bus was overspeeding” on the narrow bridge (How fast is that?). The driver claimed in his defence, among other things, that the bus had not been maintained properly and his seat, believe it or not, which was tied in place by wires and ropes, moved while the bus negotiated the turn which caused him to lose control!

Sudarshan is most recently author of Adrift

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