Open to probe, regulations will help doing business: Axis My India chief on alleged stock market manipulation through exit polls

Axis My India's chief Pradeep Gupta said he has been demanding the formulation of norms and regulations for pollsters since five years.
Last Updated : 22 June 2024, 10:26 IST

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New Delhi: 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.

Opposition parties and several civil society groups have been asking for thorough investigations, including by capital markets regulator SEBI and a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), after the stock markets witnessed a massive rally when exit polls gave a huge majority to the BJP 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 here, 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 292 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 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 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.

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Published 22 June 2024, 10:26 IST

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