Rs. 10 lakh for predicting results of Lok Sabha elections

Even 18 years of woefully wrong predictions seem not to have hindered astrologers and soothsayers willing to “prove” the ‘merit’ of their professed skills and take home a sizeable cash prize.

More than 80 entries have poured in by post — from Singapore to Shillong and everywhere in between — in acceptance of the election ‘prediction’ challenge thrown by Narendra Nayak, president, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations. While losing the challenge may mean a loss of face, winning the gauntlet would see the pockets heavier by Rs. 10 lakh.

Most of the astrologers see M. Narendra Modi, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, taking the top post, he said. While some sent along prasada (devotional offerings) to improve their chances, others have sent in a sealed envelope as the “answers will change” in time, Mr. Nayak said.

With history against them, the entries have drastically reduced from the 440 received during the 2013 Assembly election and 400 during the 2009 parliamentary election. Having conducted the challenge since 1996 — when 90 entries were received — not one astrologer, or non-astrologer, has gotten even credibly close to take home the prize, said Mr. Nayak.

“In fact, the highest score so far is 8 out of 25 questions by a woman who made guesses based on news reports,” said the rationalist, who added that the non-astrologers fared better than astrologers who professed using pendulums, reiki, inner spirituality, voice of god, pictures and stars among others for their predictions.

Countering claims

The challenge, he says, counters the claims of astrologers and television soothsayers who profess they can channel supernatural powers to predict the future. The last date was May 12, coinciding with the telecasting of exit polls that would have tampered with the challenge.

Throwing out any possibility for educated guesswork, Mr. Nayak’s challenge involves 20 questions — ranging from the general to the specific — of which 19 correct answers (with an error margin of five per cent) is all that is needed to win.

The questions included: the next Prime Minister; party or coalition that will come to power; number of seats that will be won by major political parties (the BJP, the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Trinamool Congress, the Bahujan Samajwadi Party, the Samajwadi party, among others); and votes secured by ‘high profile’ candidates including Mr. Modi and Arvind Kejriwal at Varanasi, Rahul Gandhi (Amethi), B. Janardhan Poojary (Mangalore), L.K. Advani (Gandhinagar), Murali Manohar Joshi (Lucknow) and Sonia Gandhi (Rai Bareli).

On the chances of a contestant this time, Mr. Nayak says bluntly: “There is no chance at all. It has been proven soothsaying is bunkum.” The challenge, however, will continue as “public memory was short” and vague statements of astrologers still dominate prime time news debates, he said.

More In: Mangalore