Distrustful of pollsters, Indians get election tips from illegal bookmakers

The world’s largest democracy goes to the polls next month. Election results are generally difficult to know, and official opinion polls have an uneven track record in assessing voter tendencies.

Although the country’s illegal bookmakers use little more than intuition to establish odds, some election candidates are checking what the illicit betting market, known as the satta market, says about their odds when they are. during the election campaign.

“I think it can be trusted more than opinion polls,” Lalji Tandon, an opposition MP in Lucknow, told Reuters. “Fluctuations in the satta market paint a better picture of voters’ mood.”

Tandon belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi, the man most likely to win the post of Prime Minister. Few doubt that the BJP will become the largest party in Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, which has 543 seats.

But there is no certainty in elections that claim a diverse electorate of 815 million voters, with an array of regional parties scrambling the contest between two main national parties.

Under the counter

“I prefer my opinion polls, not the ones in the newspapers and on TV. You can’t count on them, ”said a smartly dressed young gold trader who doubles as a bookie, speaking in his narrow, dimly-lit shop in Delhi’s old quarter, where errand boys quickly serve up food. tea and lemon water to every guest who walks in.

The bookmaker, who declined to be named, sets his chances by surveying public opinion himself. “I have a social network. I ask everyone. “

Despite all this networking, banned Indian bookmakers know how to avoid scrutiny, even after a report by accounting firm KPMG and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) found the illegal betting scene was worth ?? 3 trillion in 2012.

Apart from horse racing – there is a track next to the Prime Minister’s residence – most forms of gambling are illegal in India, although two of its 28 states have casino licenses. Bookmakers are therefore careful with whom they do business, only accepting bets from people who guarantee a contact of trust.

They often operate in jewelry stores, which provide a useful front for a business involving transactions of large amounts of money, with single bets going anywhere between ?? 5,000 and ?? 50 lakh.

Follow the money

Bettors are currently offered odds for Modi around 6-5 against which would pay off ?? 120 for ?? 100 if the Hindu nationalist wins.

The favorite appears to be on the rise ahead of the poll, which begins April 7 and ends in May. His odds have declined to about 8-5 from three months ago.

The ruling party of Congress is severely handicapped. A string of corruption scandals and the lowest economic growth in a decade left voters disappointed.

And the signs are that Rahul gandhi, the political heir to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty who was appointed to lead the congressional campaign, lacks charisma in the face of Modi, the son of a tea stand owner.

His odds are given at 2-1 against, after widening from 9-5 three months ago.

Smart Money says the only question at stake is whether the BJP will win enough seats to convince potential coalition partners to join a government led by Modi, whose Hindu nationalist ideology might make some wary of join him.

Changing post-election alliances to form a coalition can cause upheaval.

Seat by seat

The betting market gives odds of 6 to 5 against for the BJP and its allies winning 250 seats, which is 22 seats less than the majority. Congress and its allies are expected to get about half of that tally. No party has obtained a parliamentary majority since 1984.

The satta market provides an alternative guide to voting trends during the campaign period as it gives odds for individual parliamentary seats, whereas traditional opinion polls only forecast national and state results.

“I know many political leaders who watch the satta of their constituencies during elections,” said Tandon, who declined to say if he was watching the odds himself.

Pollsters may have a strict methodology for their surveys, but even groups with a good track record of predicting vote shares struggle to convert those percentages into accurate predictions of how many seats each party will win.

Their credibility suffered a further blow last month when a local news channel carried out an undercover operation alleging that some pollsters had tampered with data in exchange for money.

Bookmakers’ odds favored a Congressional victory in the 2009 election, but, like the polls, underestimated the margin of victory, while the Congressional alliance victory in 2004 came out of nowhere. Most also failed to take into account the surprise victory of the anti-corruption party Aam Aadmi (AAP) in Delhi’s local elections in December.

Sanjay Kumar of CSDS, a respected Indian polling group with a solid background in vote share prediction, scorned the idea that bookies were better.

“They don’t use any methodology, that’s all they can think of. They’re just making a crazy guess. ” Reuters

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