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Congress favours ban on opinion polls

November 02, 2013 17:50 IST

Congress has backed Election Commission's views on restricting publication and dissemination of opinion polls during elections, saying the random surveys are "erroneous", "lack credibility" and could be "manipulated" by vested interests.

The EC had last month sought views of various political parties on the issue of banning opinion polls after the government asked it to hold fresh consultations on the issue.

In a written reply to the Commission on October 30, the Congress party said that it "fully endorses the views of the Election Commission of India to restrict publication and dissemination of opinion polls during the election".

"In fact the opinion polls during election are neither scientific nor is there any transparent process for such polls," said the Secretary of the AICC Legal and Human Rights Department K C Mittal in the party's official response to the EC.

The party said that the random survey conducted "lacks credibility" and could be "manipulated and manoeuvred" by persons having "vested interest".

The opinion polls do not help in strengthening the democratic institutions and more often than not are "erroneous" as they do not represent the views of the majority of the electorate, it said.

"These are contrary to the basic electoral concept and process undertaken by the ECI in discharge of its obligations. As such we appreciate the initiative taken by ECI," Mittal said.

The poll body had asked various recognised national and state political parties to give their views on the issue by October 21.

At present, there is ban on opinion polls starting from 48 hours before voting.

"The Commission desires that the views of your political party on the proposal to prohibit conducting opinion polls and disseminating results thereof during the election period may be communicated to the Commission. This may kindly be done latest by October 21, 2013," said an EC letter to presidents/general secretaries/chairpersons of all recognised parties.

Prior to that the EC had submitted a proposal to the government to ban opinion polls, which was turned down on the plea that the poll body should hold fresh consultations with parties on the issue.

The last time the EC had convened a meeting of political parties to elicit their views on prohibiting or restricting publishing results of opinion polls and exit polls during elections was on April 6, 2004, when the parties unanimously expressed the view that results of exit polls should not be published before close of poll in all phases of elections.

Political parties had also unanimously agreed that results of opinion polls should not be disseminated during the period starting from date of notification to poll completion. While exit polls have been banned, opinion poll is yet to be banned.

The law ministry wrote back to EC last month asking it to seek views of various parties again on the issue of opinion poll ban.

The file was returned despite Attorney General G E Vahanvati's opinion favouring the EC proposal. The Attorney General said, "As rightly pointed out by the EC, what is paramount is the necessity to have free and fair elections. One cannot disagree with the view of the EC that such opinion polls often tend to cause a prejudicial effect on the minds of the electors."  

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