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Markets crash: Pollster Pradeep Gupta 'open to probe'

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
June 22, 2024 19:14 IST
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Facing opposition fire for exit polls allegedly being used for stock market manipulation, Axis My India's chief Pradeep Gupta has said he is open to facing all kinds of investigations and it would help do business in a much better way if the government frames specific regulations for pollsters.

IMAGE: Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena-UBT and NCP-SP leaders stage a protest over the alleged stock market manipulation, outside SEBI, in Mumbai. Photograph: ANI Photo

Opposition parties and several civil society groups have been asking for thorough investigations, including by capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), after the stock markets witnessed a massive rally when exit polls gave a huge majority to the Bharatiya Janata Party but fell sharply after the actual results showed the ruling party falling short of a clear majority on its own.


In an interaction with PTI editors at the agency's headquarters in New Delhi, Gupta said he has been demanding formulation of norms and regulations for pollsters since five years.

Gupta, the chairman and managing director of Axis My India that had predicted 361-401 seats for the BJP-led alliance as against the actual tally of 240 seats, also termed as 'childish' the demands for banning exit polls, saying every single citizen and organisation wants to know the election results and banning exit polls would serve no purpose.

"We have no connection with stock market whatsoever but I am happy to know these allegations because our data and system is so foolproof that any probe will give me an opportunity to showcase all of that is used to predict exit polls to the world. In a way it is an opportunity for us, I support the demand as it will give us a chance to show our credentials," he said.

Asked about whether he is open to a probe by a JPC or SEBI, the pollster said, "I am open to facing all kind of investigations."

"As far as me deriving any benefit from stock market jump is concerned...Axis My India has no Demat account. It is a limited company, not listed and till today not a single external investment is there in the company. There is no investment by promoters. My personal investment in stocks since April has been merely Rs 35,000. Where have I benefited?" he asserted.

The pollster also responded to allegations of Axis My India also conducting exit polls for foreign investors and sharing different results with them.

"We have never been approached by any FII, neither we have worked for any foreign investors, we have not conducted any exit poll survey for them ever," Gupta, 55, said.

Terming the demands for banning exit polls as 'childish', Gupta said specific regulations for pollsters will not only help us do business better but also add more credibility to the exit polls.

He also said Axis My India's 70 per cent clients are corporate clients including bigwigs like Bill Melinda Gates foundation and denied any conflict of interest with exit polls.

"First they used to call exit polls unscientific, now they want exit polls to be banned. These are childish talks. Every single citizen and organisation wants to know the election results and banning exit polls would serve no purpose. Exit polls are not just to tell who is winning and losing, it also helps political parties analyse the result.

"As far as we are concerned, I mentioned 70 per cent of my clients are corporate clients. Even if they are banned, it won't impact our business. I am with the law whatever is decided," he added.

Questioned about whether the dent in image caused by 2024 poll results has also impacted his corporate clients, Gupta said, "They give us business for the work we do for them and not on basis of how rightly we predict election results."

"Since the last five years, I am running from pillar to post seeking some regulations. When our people go on ground, they are seen with a suspicious mindset. We have to convince that we are not salespersons, we aren't frauds and we are not sent by a political party. We are often asked who gave you permission? And we ask please tell where we need to take permission?

"We wrote to the home ministry, we were guided to the law ministry that there is no law so first we need a law. From there we were referred to the information and broadcasting ministry that you get yourself registered there and set up a cell. We were told that you will publish a survey but who will monitor who is right and wrong ... nothing has moved but I strongly believe that we need regulations," he said.

Axis My India has been conducting exit polls since 2013 after Gupta returned from the Harvard Business School and claims a track record of predicting 61 out of 65 elections correctly.

Asked about why does Axis My India does not make a disclosure that some political parties are also its clients, Gupta said, "In the 2019 Haryana assembly elections, BJP was one of our clients and in exit polls we predicted a hung assembly, which was bang on."

"The prediction is even part of a Harvard Business School case study and includes a disclosure. Wherever, the client agrees we make a disclosure, there is nothing to hide," Gupta added.

'Taking UP lightly cost us badly'

Blaming an error of judgment for his exit polls going off the mark, Gupta has said taking Uttar Pradesh lightly in the last three phases of the elections cost it dearly as it shifted its top resources away from the crucial Hindi-heartland state to Odisha that it had got wrong in the earlier polls.

Gupta said it is not the Axis My India's method of predicting exit polls which went wrong but deployment of resources in crucial states.

"We have a foolproof methodology used for predicting elections ... it was not our method which went wrong. I made a mistake in deployment of my senior resources and took crucial states like Uttar Pradesh lightly. It is said that the route to power in Delhi (Centre) is through UP. This is a lesson to never ignore any state when it comes to exit polls," he said.

"Though the NDA (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) formed government but there was a huge difference in the number of seats we predicted and the number of seats the BJP actually got. We were proved wrong. Three states where we were badly went wrong were UP, West Bengal and Maharashtra," he said.

Explaining his analysis about where he went wrong, including on deploying resources, Gupta said, "In UP, there was considerable difference in eastern UP seats. Forty-one out of 80 seats went to polls in the fifth, sixth and seventh phases. During the same time, Haryana and Delhi had elections in the same phase, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in the seventh phase."

It also happened for the first time that Odisha and Jharkhand went to polls these phases, he said.

"Generally, elections used to be finished for other states in earlier phases and the last phase used to be for West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In Delhi also the political scenario was that Arvind Kejriwal had just come out of jail before the elections. The impact of the Aam Aadmi Party was also supposed to be in these three states only," Gupta said.

"In 2019, we had predicted everything correctly. We wanted to see Odisha with extra care this time so there is no lapse which did not happen," he said.

In the last four elections, the predictions for Uttar Pradesh were bang on and 'we did not depute our super duper resources in UP that too in the fifth, sixth and seventh phase and that is where I made the mistake', Gupta said.

"It was an error of judgement," he said.

"Thirty-one resources were sent as observers, trainers or coaches to different states, nobody was sent to Uttar Pradesh and this is where we made the mistake. We also sent some senior UP resources to Bengal but due to the political violence, the interview rate there was low and that made the difference," Gupta said.

"The 2024 elections are a learning for us to not take any state lightly, that too states like Uttar Pradesh," he added.

"Out of 64 crore voters, we spoke to 5.82 lakh voters, which is a representational sample size. We covered 3,607 assembly constituencies, over 22,000 villages. Our on-ground interviews are monitored by a team, there is no possibility of any manipulation or bias," he said.

"All exit poll companies made similar claims this time. We are always different but this time we also predicted like them and that is where we lost the opportunity ... and that is where we went wrong," he added.

A purported survey done my Axis India had leaked when elections were midway which said BJP had zero chances of improving tally in 13 states and will lose some seats it held in previous tenure.

Gupta had junked the survey as fake. However, when the results came out they were closer to that survey, raising suspicion.

"There is no way any data can get leaked from my office ... everything is recorded, there is nothing on cloud server, only on internal servers. No mobile phones are allowed in office, no computer has internet connection ... we are so confident about data, there is no question of leakage," he added.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.