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ECI sends views on opinion polls to govt

Source : IBNS
Last Updated: Fri, Nov 15, 2013 23:55 hrs

New Delhi, Nov 15 (IBNS) The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday said it has sent a compilation of views of five national and 10 state political parties on opinion polls to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

"The Commission refers to its previous view of banning opinion polls in 2004 and how it was a unanimous view that publishing the results of opinion polls should be prohibited from the date of notification of elections," reported CNN-IBN.

The ruling Congress has decided to boycott all opinion poll debates on television.

The political battle over the issue of banning opinion polls further escalated on Nov 4 as the Congress and India´s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) exchanged barbs over the matter ahead of Assembly polls in five states and the Lok Sabha election in 2014.

BJP´s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said the ´Fundamental Right to Free Speech´ has been the biggest casualty during the Congresss-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government´s rule in the country.

"Those who have followed Indian politics and the workings of the Congress party after Independence would agree that the stand of the Congress Party does not come as a surprise. The biggest casualty of the Congress Party's arrogance while in power and its tendency to trample over Institutions has been our Fundamental Right to Free Speech," Modi wrote in his blog on Nov 4.

The Chief Minister said the government had showed its intolerance towards social media criticisms by suspending Twitter handles.

"It was not too long ago that the UPA Government showed us how intolerant it was of Social Media criticism when Twitter handles were suspended by the Government. On that occasion I had blackened my Twitter display picture as a mark of solidarity with all those in Social Media who were speaking up for free speech and expression," he said.

"On the Nirvan Diwas of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in 2011, many Central Ministers spoke of controlling social media. Irony truly died a hundred times over that day. Some months back a Restaurant in Mumbai was threatened for expressing its Opinionagainst the UPA's Policies in a creative manner on a Sales Receipt," Modi said.

Speaking on the issuer of opinion polls, the Gujarat Chief Minister wrote: "As for opinion polls, it is not that I have any particular affinity for them. In fact, I am quite aware of their limitations. Our enlightened pollsters made assertions about how Gujarat will vote against the BJP in 2002, then again in 2007 and even in 2012 with such great confidence only to be proven incorrect by the people."

"However there is an important principle and ethic here that holds true for every Party and Government. From Bhishma in the Mahabharata to Kautilya in the Arthashastra we have been taught how important it is for those in Government to be attuned to Public Opinion.

"A government that is in denial over where the Public Opinion really stands is doomed to be thrown out of power. Opinion Polls in India have a mixed record. They get their predictions right sometimes and not so right some other times. It is up to us as political parties to determine what to do with the findings of an opinion poll," he wrote in his blog.

He said: "If the poll is favourable we are free to become complacent or we can continue our work on the ground without becoming over confident. If they are not favourable to us, we are free to reject the numbers and remain in denial or we can choose to take corrective action where it merits. To resort to extreme steps simply because the Opinion Polls do not tell us what we may want to hear is utterly puerile."

Modi said his concern was not limited to the proposal of banning opinion polls.

"My concern is not limited to this proposal to ban opinion polls. Tomorrow, the Congress may seek a ban on articles, editorials and blogs during election time on the very same grounds.

"If they lose an election they may then seek a ban on the Election Commission and if the Courts do not support them then they may say why not ban the courts! After all this a Party that resorted to imposing the Emergency in response to an inconvenient Court Verdict," he said.

Attacking the Congress and calling people as the ´best judge´, Modi said they should ´reject´ the ruling party in the upcomingpolls.

"If you ask me, the solution is much simpler. Rather than cope with these authoritarian and subversion tactics of the Congress, it is better we reject the anti-democratic Congress not merely in an opinion poll but in the Polling Booth where it matters the most.People are the best judge!," he said.

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said losers want to ban opinion polls after being defeated in elections but winners demand its continuation.

"Psephol ogy in India is still maturing. 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.

"Polls like Gallup in the United States have acquired great credibility. Conducted on carefully chosen small samples, the pollsnormally prove correct. When the trend of opinion polls are adverse to the political parties, they rubbish them. They start demanding a ban. The loser demands a ban and the potential winner wants them to continue.

"A ban on such polls can not be considered based on who is demanding the ban. Clearly, polls are also a part of free speech. Restricting them is constitutionally neither permissible nor desirable," the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said.

"The Election Commission will be best advised to keep away from this controversy and allow the market place of democracy to accept or reject the findings of the opinion poll.

"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 can not seek to alter the rules of Free Speech," he said.

Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said opinion polls prior to elections should be stopped.

Speaking to media persons in New Delhi, he said that the opinion polls have become a joke and should be stopped.

"Opinion polls should be stopped. In a state like Madhya Pradesh which has more than 3 crore voters how can a survey with just 2800 people reveal the actual picture?" asked Singh.

"These should be stopped. Anyone can give some money and get the survey done. These people are not even authorised by the government," he said.

The statements were made after the ECI sought the views of the political parties on restricting publication and dissemination of opinion polls during elections.

In response to an EC letter on the issue, the Congress party had opposed opinion polls and had requested to dismiss such pollsstating that these surveys are 'erroneous' and ´lacks credibility'.

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