Assembly elections

Exit polls: BJP is winning as many as 285 seats in Uttar Pradesh – or as few as 161

All the exit polls show BJP as the largest party in UP.

If the exit polls are to believed – always a big if in Indian politics – all the talk of an equal contest between the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh was misguided. Instead, the key metric would be to estimate how much of the BJP’s massive victory in 2014 has given way to others because of electoral drift. Every one of the exit polls that were put out on Thursday says the BJP will be the single largest party in Uttar Pradesh.

That said, the gap between the biggest victory predicted for the BJP and the smallest one is massive: 124 seats. Today’s Chanakya is forecasting 285 seats for the BJP, with a margin that could even take it almost to 300, in the 404-strong assembly. Meanwhile, on the other end of the range is CVoter, which has predicted 161 seats to the BJP.

The other exit polls fall somewhere in between. CSDS-ABP and MRC have the BJP at more than 20 seats below the halfway mark of 202, while VMR puts the saffron party just on the verge of majority at 200. MyIndia-Axis, meanwhile, is much closer to the Today’s Chanakya prediction, with a forecast of 265 seats to the BJP, a figure that would give it a comfortable majority.

Today’s Chanakya and CVoter in fact, were the last exit polls to be released on Thursday. Until they were out, an average of the polls still suggested that the BJP would need help reaching the halfway mark, with a projected average seat share of around 180. Once those two polls were published though, the BJP’s average seat forecast moved much up nearly 30 seats to 211, which would allow it to form government.

Some amount of variation is expected, especially in attempting to generate a picture of elections in a state that has a population equal to Brazil. But the gap between the top and bottom suggests that there is no clear sense of how well the BJP has done, even as all exit polls are clear that the saffron party will be the largest in the state.

The hardest part of putting together polls in India is finding a way to take estimated vote shares, which are relatively easier to sample, and turn those into projected seat shares. India’s first past the post system makes this particularly complicated. This is because even if a party has a massive vote share, if those votes aren’t distributed well, they don’t necessarily correspond to a large seat share.

Some of the variation in the seat shares given to the BJP might be down to how the pollster is calculating that conversion from vote share, especially since the other trend – of BJP being the largest party – is consistent across all polls.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.