In a flip-flop, the Election Commission on Friday said exit polls will be banned till May 16, the day of counting, but soon after clarified that the prohibition will be in place only till the end of the last phase of polling on May 12.
"Exit poll is prohibited till half an hour after closing of the poll on May 12 (the last day of the nine-phased polling)," the Election Commission said in a statement.
"In a multi-phased election, the ban begins on the hour the poll is fixed and ends half an hour after the poll ends in the last phase," said Dhirendra Ojha, director in the EC.
The EC's clarification came soon after Election Commissioner H S Brahma said the exit polls cannot be telecast before May 16.
"You are not supposed to conduct exit polls before May 16th -- the counting day... We will not allow you to open your mouth before 16th evening," he said during an interaction with Indian Women Press Corps in New Delhi.
"On the evening of 16th you can openly telecast the exit polls... Exit poll is only after counting. What is the hurry? Hardly, there are 150 hours (between May 12 and May 16)," he added.
Asked why the exit polls cannot be telecast before May 16, Brahma argued that there could be repoll in several places.
"What is the guarantee that you will have no repolling or countermanding of polls on 13th or 14th," he said. "The law is very clear. The exit poll is banned as per the law of the land. In 2010, we banned exit polls. As per the law of the land...No exit poll before 16th," the Election Commissioner said.
Sources in the EC later said there was a "slip of tongue" on part of Brahma with regard to the date.
Image: The graphic shows voters' preference for the PM's post