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EC again asks government to ban opinion polls

November 15, 2013 18:51 IST

After getting fresh support from various political parties, the Election Commission has written to the law ministry for a ban on opinion polls from the date of notification of elections.

In a communication, the Election Commission has said that a total of 15 political parties, including five national and 10 regional parties, responded to its proposal on opinion polls and a majority of them supported the ban.

"Five national parties and 10 state parties have submitted their views on the matter," the Commission said after it wrote to various parties seeking their views afresh on opinion polls.

The law ministry had asked the EC to hold fresh consultations with parties on the issue and then give its views.

While forwarding the response of the parties, the poll panel noted that it had previously held consultations with parties on the issue on April 6, 2004.

"The political parties were then (2004) of the unanimous view that publishing the results of opinion poll should be prohibited from the date of notification of election.

"Accordingly, the proposal made by the Commission was for a provision made in the law prohibiting publishing and dissemination of result of opinion poll from the date of notification of election," the EC letter says.

A perusal of views expressed by various parties on the issue of opinion poll reveals that barring BJP, almost all parties have sought a ban or restriction of some kind on the dissemination of result of opinion poll ahead of elections.

Prominent parties which sought a ban or restriction on opinion polls ahead of elections include Congress, CPI-M, BSP and NCP, besides SP, AIADMK, DMK, JD-U, Shiv Sena and SAD.

The TMC, DMDK, IUML and KJP have also favoured a ban/restriction on polls during elections, saying it affects the voters.

The BJP, however, says there should be no ban as this would fall in the realm of a restriction on fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.

A number of political parties have responded positively to the EC proposal, with Congress leading the bandwagon in seeking a complete ban or regulation on opinion polls during the election process.

The EC proposal has already triggered a major debate on the way opinion polls are conducted as BJP is widely projected by pre-poll surveys to do well in the forthcoming assembly polls and Lok Sabha elections and is thus exploiting it to its advantage.

It has attacked the Congress for its demand saying, a "loser" cannot seek to alter the rules of the game.

The BSP has also sought a ban on opinion polls during elections, saying such surveys do not reflect the correct picture as there is no proper or scientific method to know the response of voters.

CPI-M supports the proposal to prohibit publishing the results of opinion polls during a reasonable period before the date of poll and till half and hour after the conclusion of poll in all the constituencies.

Supporting the proposal, the Congress has fully endorsed restricting publishing and dissemination of opinion polls during election.

While the NCP has said that opinion polls should also be banned similar to exit polls, the Trinamool Congress has said that the party has no comments to offer but will abide with the decision of the Commission on the matter.

The AIADMK has said that there should be a ban on publication of result of opinion poll in any form during the period the Model Code of Conduct is in force, while DMK has said that no opinion poll should be published, disseminated during the period starting from issue of notification till the completion of election.

While the SP is in absolute agreement with the EC proposal to prohibit such polls from issue of notification, JD-U has said that opinion poll should be prohibited as money plays a role in surveys.

Shiv Sena wants a restriction on the opinion poll during the period starting issue of notification to completion of elections saying such polls can be manipulated, while the

Akali Dal has said that opinion polls should be completely restricted during polls as money power plays a dominating role in such surveys.

The Election Commission had 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 and threw the ball back into the court of EC after it did not approve its proposal in this regard.

There are a total of 60 recognised political parties in the country. While all the national recognised political parties, barring CPI, have sent their views and suggestions on the issue, only 10 regional parties have sent their comments.

The Commission had written to all recognised national and state parties to send their views on he proposed ban on opinion polls after the government asked it to hold fresh consultations on the issue.

The poll body has asked various recognised national and state political parties to give their views on the issue by October 21 and later extended the deadline to November 4.

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 EC proposal 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."

He had said "one must also take into consideration the views of the political parties at the meeting held on April 6, 2004 and the unanimous view expressed therein" in favour of banning opinion poll.

The government's top law officer had said he is of the view that there is no "real basis" to distinguish between opinion polls and exit polls since the exit polls have already been restricted.

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