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Poll Handbook

A psephologist's delight

Poll Handbook
India Decides: Elections 1952-95
By David Butler By Ashok Lahiri By Prannoy Roy
Books & Things Rs 330; Pages: 366
IT'S that time in the nation's life again. Preparations are on for the 11th Lok Sabha elections. And political leaders, serious psephologists and arm-chair analysts are all poring over data from previous polls to figure out which of the three major political alliances or combinations can win the upcoming battle of the ballot. This new 405-page edition packs in all the data needed for the psephological exercises. The volume, actually, is one up on Election Commission Reports—it has the polling figures of the 1995 assembly elections. The edition, to quote the publishers, "presents an organised collection of data which makes the mass of statistics more intelligble and paves the way for scientific analysis".

Besides the detailed constituency results of all assembly and Lok Sabha elections held since the formation of the Indian Republic, India Decides provides useful state-wise census data about the caste composition, sex ratio, age, sex and literacy figures. The comparison of infant mortality rate, for instance, between 1981, when the all-India figure was as high as 934, and 1992, when it had come down to 79, is not what one would have expected in an election handbook. Why, it even provides a state-wise ratio of number of persons per registered doctors, hospitals/dispensaries and hospital beds. With such diverse data, India Decides has been turned into much more than a mere handbook on Indian elections. In addition to the table of figures pertaining to election data, the publishers have also provided excellent charts detailing the various splits in the Congress since 1952, as well as the rather complex denouement of the Janata Party and the BJP since 1977.

Timed as it is, just before the general elections, the book is bound to find many takers. It can be safely recommended as a must for media organisations, political parties as well as marketing and polling agencies. The authors, David Butler, Ashok Lahiri and Prannoy Roy, are all proven psephologists and have teamed up well to cover almost all possible aspects of elections in India.

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