Congress leaders favour ban on opinion polls, BJP calls them losers
Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: A political tug-of-war was sparked after the All-India-Congress-Committee (AICC) wrote a letter to the Election Commission (EC) to restrict opinion polls ahead of the 2014 General Elections.
While appealing to the EC to ban opinion polls, AICC had written that, “The random surveys were "erroneous", "lack credibility" and could be "manipulated" by vested interests.”
Reacting to the above argument, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain on Monday tweeted that, “Don`t people have right to opinion? Congress wants to impose undeclared emergency.”
“Congress knows public opinion is in favour of Modiji, scared of BJP`s lead,Congress is seeking a ban on opinion polls,” Hussain added.
Countering the Congress demand for banning opinion polls, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said though psephology is still maturing in India and some opinion polls do go wrong, it does not mean they should be banned.
"There are opinion polls and opinion polls. Some have acquired credibility and some can easily be ignored. Some are cases of even `participatory psephology`. Whatever may be the reliability or otherwise of these polls, can they be prohibited or banned?" Jaitley said in an article released by the BJP today.
Noting that political parties tend to rubbish opinion polls that predict adverse results, he said the loser demands a ban and the potential winner wants them to continue.
"A ban on such polls cannot be considered based on who is demanding the ban. Clearly, (opinion) polls are also a part of free speech. Restricting them is constitutionally neither permissible nor desirable," Jaitley added.
"If the polls can be legitimately banned in this country, the next step would be to ban political commentators from giving assessments favourable to some and adverse to some others. A potential loser in an election cannot seek to alter the rules of free speech," Jaitley said.
With Congress taking the case to the Election Commission, BJP said the poll panel is best advised to "keep away from this controversy and allow the market place of democracy to accept or reject the findings of opinion polls".
“Because they (Congress) are losing badly that’s why the party is seeking a ban, they don`t want public to see results,” Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal tweeted.
However, Akali Dal has written to the Commission seeking a ban on opinion polls.
Party spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said, "Opinion polls should be banned as they are manipulated and affect the outcome of poll results."
Reacting over the same issue, BJP’s senior leader Kalraj Mishra slammed the UPA government and said, “Because opinion polls are not in Congress`s favour that is why it wants a ban on it.”
“A fear complex is gripping Congress, they can see that there is a wave against them thus seeking ban on opinion polls,” the party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
Meanwhile, the legal department of the Congress Party stated that opinion polls can be misused, and they are not scientific or credible.
The Congress, however, shifted from its earlier stand, where it dismissed the proposal of the Election Commission to ban opinion polls.
“We aren`t saying opinion polls are wrong or are manipulated but certainly they can be manipulated, even EC feels the same,” Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal said.
Terming opinion polls as a ‘racket’, ‘farce’ and ‘manipulated’ exercise, Congress on Monday made a strong pitch for banning them.
The party also rejected BJP`s criticism that Congress was opposing opinion polls as it was ‘scared’ of Narendra Modi since these surveys are now predicting an edge to the opposition party.
“This has become a joke, it has to be stopped,” party general secretary Digvijay Singh said.
"...These have become a farce. They should be banned altogether. The kind of complaints, information that I have got show that anybody can pay and get a survey as desired...In a country of 1.2 billion people, how can a few thousand people predict the trend. It has become a racket. So many groups have sprung up," he added.
In a written reply to EC on October 30, Congress said it "fully endorses the views of the Election Commission of India to restrict publication and dissemination of opinion polls during election (time)."
"In fact, opinion polls during elections are neither scientific nor there is any transparent process for such polls," Congress said in its official response to EC.
Toeing the Congress line, Samajwadi party leader Azam khan said that the opinion polls must be banned.
Even the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati said that a ban should be put on the opinion polls.
However, NCP, a key constituent of the UPA, does not favour a ban on opinion polls ahead of elections, but wanted a body like the Press Council to ensure that they are "not sponsored" like paid news.
Party leader and Union minister Tariq Anwar said that while the party does not want a ban, but at the same time it should be seen that there are no sponsored opinion polls, which affects not only the credibility of the media, but also healthy democracy.
"Since media is free, bodies like Press Council should see that the opinion polls are conducted in an objective manner and that they are not sponsored to project a certain view point," Anwar said.
Several opinion polls conducted recently show BJP`s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi ahead of Rahul Gandhi, widely seen as the PM probable for Congress. Opinion polls on the ensuing Assembly elections show BJP as the clear winner in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
Meanwhile, CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury said, “Opinion polls can be conducted but EC must set time frame wherein results shouldn`t be published until elections are held.”
Seeking a restriction on publication of opinion polls during the poll process, CPI leader D Raja said they affect the level-playing field and influence non-committed and neutral voters.
Former IPS officer and flagbearer of the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement Kiran Bedi also raised her voice against the idea of banning the opinion polls.
“Opinion polls must be transparent-verifiable. Because they r not immune from impacting. But cannot be banned as we are a practicing democracy,” Bedi tweeted.
Bedi further wrote on her twitter handle that, “My view is polls are a challenge for those against whom it goes! They must take it.”
Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in West Bengal, said it would go with the Election Commission on the issue.
Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy said his party will abide by the decision taken by the Election Commission.
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