April 1, a day of fake news in Andhra, Telangana

It is the season of opinion polls and surveys in Andhra Pradesh. Just about every other day, Whatsapp forwards include findings of a survey done in the poll-bound state. Like this on Monday that claimed to be an AP Intelligence report. It said the YSR Congress will win handsomely.

But when Andhra Jyothy, a leading Telugu newspaper published a survey ostensibly done by Lokniti-Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), a leading research institute, it was bound to be taken seriously. Except that it turned out that Lokniti-CSDS had never undertaken any survey in Andhra Pradesh and what has been published was “fake”.  

The “fake” survey had predicted the return of Telugu Desam to power, saying it would win 126-135 seats in the 175-member assembly with the YSRC netting 45-50. Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats, the report said TDP will bag 18-22 while the YSRC will have to be content with 3-5 seats. ABN Andhra Jyothy, the TV channel concern of the newspaper, ran a programme based on the survey as well. 

In a statement, Lokniti-CSDS said “it is in no way responsible for the fraudulent reporting and findings about the so-called survey”. 

This only added grist to the YSRC campaign that has often accused this media house of being pro-Chandrababu Naidu. The party has banned Andhra Jyothy from its media interactions. This year, it also banned TV5, a Telugu news channel, calling it biased. The TDP on its part, has always taken an aggressive posture vis-a-vis Sakshi newspaper and TV channel, which are owned by Jaganmohan Reddy.  

Surveys got into a controversy in the Telugu states when politician-turned-psephologist L Rajagopal before the Telangana elections in December 2018, predicted a TRS defeat. Rajagopal landed with egg on his face when the results were the complete opposite of what he predicted.

April 1, incidentally turned out to be a bad day for journalism. Deccan Chronicle, a newspaper known for publishing false stories in jest on April Fools day for years, tried one again on Monday. It published a headline saying Harish Rao, KCR’s nephew was to join the BJP. But Rao was not amused and called it “a classic example of Fake news”. 

“It is insensitive to spread disinformation even as a prank, specially at a time when the whole country has been fighting against fake news,” he tweeted. 

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