While finalising the themes and essays for my newly published book Inside Parliament
, I considered an idea about how bogus numbers, rather than bogus ideas, were now the preferred propaganda tool.
Every day, the government - the BJP and its family are Olympic gold medallists in propaganda techniques and technology - pummels us with more numbers, more statistics, more surveys and more data to prove it's a Regime of Superheroes. I couldn't complete the research and meet the deadline for the book. Never mind.
Here is the reality of the con-job surveys.
Start with the Pew Survey 2017. It claims nine of 10 Indians hold a favourable opinion of Narendra Modi and that eight of 10 feel economic conditions are good. Hidden in the small print are a few crucial details. The survey was conducted shortly after the demonetisation exercise, when the claims about that event were admittedly still being believed by a large number of people. Moreover, the polling was conducted well before the GST fiasco. Also, only 2,464 people were questioned by the pollsters in 16 Indian states and the national capital of Delhi. In essence, half of India (geographically) was ignored. I won't even mention the same size and how it squares up to the population of India.
Now comes the Moody's rating. In November 2017, Moody's said that it was lifting India's rating after 13 years, from Baa3 to Baa2, considering the BJP-led government's reforms. It is to be noted that Baa3 is the lowest rating of investment grade as per Moody's "Long-term Corporate Obligation Rating" scale. And Baa2 is the ninth highest. It may also be noted that in January 2017, Moody's admitted to false credit ratings of sub-prime home loans in the context of the 2008 financial crisis in the United States.
20 years of UPA and NDA raj have combined to keep India near the bottom of the Moody's rating table. Are we to celebrate?
In November 2016, there was the (in)famous Narendra Modi App survey. It made extraordinarily tall claims:
- More than 93 per cent of the respondents supported demonetization
- More than 90 per cent approved of the government's supposed methods to tackle black money
- On the overall fight against corruption, more than 92 per cent of respondents rated the government as "very good" or "good"
Five hundred thousand people - okay, 500,000 people and bots - took the survey on the app, which was published 14 days after demonetisation. I may add that as on February 2016, only 17 per cent of Indians had smart phones. I suspect the poll saw BJP troll factories voting over and over again. And of course, the questions on the app gave respondents no option to "disagree"!
Six months later, in the summer of 2017, the NDA government finished three years in office. Now there was a mysterious poll, the results of which were published in some newspapers. The poll findings were interesting, to say the minimum:
- The government had met the expectations of 61 per cent of respondents
- Among those in business corporations, 45 per cent rated the government's performance as "excellent". And 54 per cent felt demonetisation was a "success"
- A sizeable 59 per cent of respondents claimed the Government was "on track" to deliver on promises
- On corruption, 47 per cent said it had "reduced"
I tried hard to find details about the survey and its methodology. All I found was it had been conducted in June 2017 over a leisurely three-week period! It had asked questions to people in just 20 cities. The sample size and the manner of selection of respondents were never revealed.
Before I sign-off, here's a brief recall of the 71st Independence Day Speech - on August 15, 2017. Addressing the nation from the Red Fort, the Prime Minister said, "According to research conducted by outside experts, about Rs 3 lakh crore that had never come into the banking system before has been brought into the system after demonetisation. More than Rs 1.75 lakh crore deposited in banks is under the scanner. Black money worth Rs 2 lakh crore had to be deposited in banks and this system has forced them to be accountable. It has also stopped the flow of black money."
It is still not clear who these "outside experts" were. Was it the Income Tax Department, the Reserve Bank of India or somebody else? Also, if as was claimed Rs 2 lakh crore has come into the banking system, why was only Rs 1.75 lakh crore under the scanner? Typically, with BJP con-job surveys, you don't ask and they don't tell. Actually even if you ask - they still don't tell!
P.S. Happy to share that my new book "Inside Parliament: Views from the front row is now Number One on the Nielsen bestseller list. NDTV.com must share some of the credit. Some of the essays in the book were first published on this platform.
Derek O'Brien is leader, parliamentary party Trinamool Congress (RS), and Chief National spokesperson of the party.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.