New Delhi: The Congress party has taken serious exception to the conduct of election-related opinion polls and joined issue with Goldman Sachs’ projection of a Narendra Modi government in 2014. These demurrers arise from mounting Congress party chagrin and concern at the certainty of losing all the major elections from now up to early next year culminating in the formation of a new government at the Centre. Nevertheless, they cannot be dismissed out of hand, although the organization and its leading lights have more than sinned to qualify for the smallest grace and reprieve.

This writer has never trusted to the accuracy of opinion polls and often questioned their integrity, having seen firsthand their grotesque manipulations to suit the interests of the ruling party. Although the sample sizes have grown more decent in recent times, they can never wholly gauge voter preferences, because the Indian electorate is elaborately guarded about its choices. Opinion polls have also gone horribly wrong, and if you trusted them about Narendra Modi, he wouldn’t have been a thrice elected chief minister of Gujarat, and with thumping majorities. If you are a keen political observer and unbiased, you can catch the trends early, and opinion polls do not aid in the calculations, not certainly those that are publicly conducted.

On the other hand, political parties and even individual candidates authorize private polls. The results are usually kept secret, and they have proved to be more accurate. But generally, politicians trust to their instincts. Having played the game so long, they know which way the wind is blowing. To that extent, the Congress’s rejection of the opinion polls may be a trifle disingenuous, because it would have awoken and smelt the coffee by now. Does it believe that the opinion polls can influence the actual voting? It would have to be very insecure to reach that conclusion. People have decided about the United Progressive Alliance. They made the decision long ago. The decision is implacably against the United Progressive Alliance and it will not change. Perhaps to be abused to the face, to encounter ignominy in every opinion poll, is more than the Congress can suffer, and in counter, it has bared its authoritarian fangs. It cannot purge the Emergency from its being. But India won’t stand for it. The more it objects to opinion polls, the angrier will the electorate get. The Congress sensibly should grin and bear it.

But its point about conflict of interest deserves some examination. In another season as a print journalist, this writer briefly interacted with the two pollsters who have attracted controversy for their political associations, these being Yashwant Deshmukh of C-Voter and Yogendra Yadav who is presently with the Aam Admi Party. On the face of it, both are eminently professional. But the fact remains that their political affiliations cannot be ignored. At the same time, this leads to a treacherous bog. Where do you erect the fences, draw the line, as it were? Is it alright if they don’t lend their names but manage the exercise backstage? But leave opinion polls for a moment and attend to the rot in mainstream journalism. Some of the better known names and faces of this hackery have a quid pro quo relationship with the ruling party and the government. They actively conspire to influence public opinion in favour of the United Progressive Alliance establishment and against Narendra Modi. There is give and take here. Should these names and faces be banned from the media? What’s the alternative? You turn your face away. Opinion polls cannot influence voters any more than partisans on night television. Exit polls could be consequential but suitable measures have been taken in that direction.

The Goldman Sachs upgrade for India on its understanding of a Narendra Modi government in 2014 is altogether another matter, and the Congress party does not come out smelling of roses. In principle, it is better advised that foreign entities seclude themselves from internal matters such as elections. In a political-economic analysis of a country, political weightings have to be attached for future projections, and frankly, all hopes are pinned on Modi for a revival of the national economy. It may also be the case that attacking Goldman Sachs for its analysis, as the Union commerce minister, Anand Sharma did, is a clear instance of shooting the messenger. All the same, foreign institutions should be more circumspect. India is a large and sensitive democracy, and rejects even the faintest perception of extra-territorial play in domestic matters.

Which takes to the Congress party’s own sin in making Narendra Modi persona non grata with foreign governments. As soon as the United Progressive Alliance was sworn to power, local representatives of foreign governments were pressured to scorn Modi. Under Indian government pressure, Modi’s valid visa to the United States was revoked. Other countries moved similarly to bar him. The controlled mainstream media played no small role in denying Modi the benefit of canvassing for Gujarat abroad. Every so often, the news of denial of a United States visa to the Gujarat chief minister was played up in the media to the unrepressed glee of the Congress party. The chickens have come home to roost. Now, the United States says it will do business with Modi if he becomes prime minister, and describes the visa matter as a “non-issue”. America is a transactional power. It cannot shun Modi if that means shunning India. What the United States says or does ultimately is immaterial. But this sorry episode should warn Congress leaders not to involve foreign countries in domestic politics. The East India Company commenced its low life in not very different circumstances.