Electronic media’s parallel democracy

IN Media Practice | 23/10/2004

Electronic media’s parallel democracy


If such a fool-proof arrangement is made, is it necessary to entertain parallel endeavours to assess public opinion?


Prabhakar Kulkarni


The democratic process is statutorily fixed by the Indian Constitution. The route to democratic power is through ballot. Eligible voters are free to express their choice of parties or candidates through the election machinery which manages polling process, while keeping vigilance on undue influences or any type of electoral malpractices.

If such a fool-proof arrangement is made, is it necessary to entertain parallel endeavours to assess public opinion and to disclose it through electronic media’s selected questions put to selected persons or groups?                                                

 The pre-poll surveys by electronic media have already been a matter of controversy. While groups selected for questioning and assessment are very few compared to varied sections in urban and rural India, the very objectivity and impartiality of surveying agency is not ensured. It may be a part of a strategic campaign secretly planned by the agency which has openly undertaken the publicity network of a particular political party. Such pre-poll surveys arrived rather late in the Indian democratic culture mostly due to influence of similar surveys in foreign countries.

In first few elections after Independence pre-poll surveys were absent. If Indian media has its inspiration from the foreign counterpart, the very concept is quite incompatible with Indian situation. In a  country which has  political polarization, limited population and few ethnic, religious  or social disparities, such surveys have some relevance to reality of the public mood. But in India, constituents of large number of political parties, caste differences, varied criteria of candidate selection, income disparity, and limited awareness have proved to be blocks to reaching the target of realistic assessment.

A recent survey and assessment to ascertain Maha-Neta (super leader) Yuva Neta (youth leader)carried out by a television channel (ETV) as a pre-poll survey  is almost an extension of the undemocratic pre-poll surveys .Assessing parties’ chances to win  before elections  and to ascertain the super leader out of the selected ten are both undemocratic processes but the latter is more so. This is because the selected ten were not all contesting elections, although some of them are leaders of political parties.

 The selection of the Sena supremo Bal Thackeray as Maha Neta need not be a matter of controversy. His popularity, charisma and dynamic leadership would certainly crown him with honour of Maha Neta of Maharashtra. But to establish it statutorily requires an electoral process, not the parallel process of the electronic media. The poll results actually indicated different picture, namely success of the Congress -NC P by majority , while the Sena-BJP had to accept the second position of the opposition.. Even the selection of a state leader cum chief minister is not so easy as indicated by a series of tug of war between the Congress and the NCP .Sharad Pawar who was among the media’s list of ten has actually proved to be a Neta who decides  the fate and personality of Maharashtra’s  chief ministership..                    

In view of the inconsistency between media’s projection and eventual election results, it is necessary either to ban such pre-poll surveys or regulate  them by means of some socio-political organizations .Let such surveys form a sort of competition or award function without any relevance to electoral process and politics. Let people decide their choice of political parties and leaders that are duly elected to rule a state and the country.       


 Prabhat Kulkarni is a senior journalist based in Kohlapur. Contact: klp_kprasa@sancharnet.in








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