Millennium Post

‘Opinion poll agencies fudge data for money’

‘Opinion poll agencies fudge data for money’
In a shocking revelation, representatives of leading opinion poll agencies of the country were caught on hidden camera saying they will tweak predictions for money and also at the instance of political parties. This was a sting operation conducted by news channel News Express that went by the name ‘Operation Prime Minister’. The ‘stung’ agencies also claimed they would get such fudged data aired on leading television channels and newspapers as they knew editors and senior journalists.  All for money, of course.

In the sting operation, Yashwant Deshmukh, managing editor, C-Voter News Services Pvt Ltd is seen on camera assuring the reporter working as an undercover agent that he would increase margin of error from standard three per cent to five per cent for the benefit of a particular political party. ‘Three per cent is the standard margin of error. At best we can put it to five per cent,’ said Deshmukh in the sting. His colleague, Sharmistha Loiwal, general manager, business development, explained the benefits of this change in margin of error. She said this would increase the number of seats for a political party in a state from 10 to 13, a roughly 30 per cent increase. ‘My analysis will say that this issue didn’t work for this party... this issue didn’t work for that guy.....my team will have to do a lot of editorial work...to create all those manipulations,’ she explained to the undercover agent.

Another agency Quality Research & Services (QRS) claimed to provide manipulated data on different rates and assured to get it publicised through print and electronic media on separate charges. ‘We created a new organisation C-fore overnight. What was interesting was that newspapers had both surveys together- on the left the BJP would get 200 seats and on the right Samajwadi Party (SP) would get 200 seats. Here it is QRS , and there C-fore,’ said Arun Behuria, managing director of QRS boasting about his manipulating skills during the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections 2002. Behuria claimed he was approached by Arun Singh, brother-in-law of the then UP chief minister Rajnath Singh.

Similarly, another agency Newszstreet Digital Media Pvt Ltd said they receive black money for opinion polls. ‘We received only Rs 12 lakh by cheque, rest of the Rs 12 crores was received as cash which was black money,’ ,’said Kishore Malviya, a consultant of the company. The poll survey was done for a regional political party during the last elections.

The rest of the eight companies trapped in the sting also accepted that they manipulate data to give favourable results for political parties. They manipulate data collection, manipulate processing of data and assure that they would get get it published in various media organisations. The companies caught in the sting are IPSOS India, Mild Stream Marketing and Research (MMR), Hub Pulse, Development and Research Services (DRS), Lead Tank Management Consulting (LTMC), Vaishno Comtech, Research and Development Initiative, and Octel.

‘Our motivation behind conducting the sting operation was a letter written by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to all regional and political parties inviting their views on the publication of such opinion polls. We want to caution voters of the country before they choose the next prime minister in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,’ said Vinok Kapri, editor-in-chief of NewsExpress.

Kapri also demanded the ECI to take action against these 11 agencies and direct all poll survey agencies to make their data public. Kapri admitted to the limitations of poll surveys and declared he would ban such agencies on his channel.

Reacting to the expose, AAP leader Ashutosh said: ‘It’s betrayal of public sentiment. Agencies must be booked under criminal cases to send a strict message.’
Siddheshwar Shukla

Siddheshwar Shukla

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