BJP on Monday said restricting opinion polls is neither constitutionally permissible nor desirable as they are a part of free speech and maintained that only losers demand a ban on them.
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 on Modnday.
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 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.
“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”.
Jaitley cited the example of Gallup polls in the US and said they have acquired great credibility as they are conducted well and have proved to be correct.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said Congress is opposing opinion polls as they show the ruling party being voted out of power.
“In the opinion polls,Congress sees defeat looming large. These polls show Narendra Modi being far ahead of Rahul Gandhi. They cannot seek a ban on opinion polls as this would be akin to hiding the truth. This is their ‘Emergency’ mindset,” he said.
BJP alleged that Congress has panicked after seeing the opinion poll results and,hence,wants them banned.
“Congress knows what is in store for it but still wants to live in a make-believe world. Banning opinion polls is a retrograde step,” Javadekar said.
Asked if BJP would hold the same opinion if opinion polls showed it as the loser in future elections,he said,”It is an evolving science. Some opinion polls go wrong sometimes. We recognise it as evolving.”
On Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh’s remarks that results of opinion polls are being changed by the use of money,Javadekar said,”Since when did Congress have shortage of money. Truth cannot be bought with money. In the post-Emergency elections,we had neither money nor resources yet we won.”
He also refuted Congress leader Ajay Maken’s charge that BJP is trying to muffle the press. “It is actually the other way round. One should understand the history of the Congress to know this.”