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Congress changes stand,demands EC to stop opinion polls

Elections pre-poll surveys lack credibility,may be manipulated by vested interests: AICC letter

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi |
November 3, 2013 1:27:31 am

With opinion polls projecting a poor show for the Congress in states headed to Assembly polls,the party has changed its view and written to the Election Commission supporting its proposal to “restrict publication and dissemination of opinion polls” during elections.

AICC legal department secretary K C Mittal,in a communication to the Election Commission,said “opinion polls during election are neither scientific nor is there any transparent process for such polls… our party fully endorses the views of the Election Commission of India to restrict publication and dissemination of opinion polls during the election.”

The party said the random survey conducted “lacks credibility” and could be “manipulated and manoeuvred” by persons with “vested interest”. The opinion polls do not help in strengthening democratic institutions and more often than not are “erroneous” as they do not represent the views of the majority of the electorate,it said.

“These are contrary to the basic electoral concept and process undertaken by the ECI in discharge of its obligations. As such,we appreciate the initiative taken by ECI,” the party said.

This is a shift from its earlier position. A fortnight ago,the Congress,while raising questions on the credibility of pre-poll surveys,underlined that it was not in favour of their ban. AICC spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit had argued that independent and reputed companies conducting survey on the same population and at the same point of time were coming out with different results.

The Congress endorsement of the Election Commission’s proposal comes shortly after Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati’s legal opinion to the Law Ministry in which he said a ban on opinion polls would be “constitutionally permissible”. His opinion,however,contradicted the opinion given by Soli Sorabjee as Attorney General in 2004.

Sorabjee had argued that any prohibition on opinion polls would be unconstitutional. Saddled with two contradictory opinions and in a dilemma over the course to be taken,the Law Ministry let the Election Commission discuss the issue with political parties and seek their opinion.

The shift in Congress stand — from questioning the credibility of election surveys to demanding restriction on publication and dissemination — comes at a time when opinion polls have projected a Congress defeat in states going to polls.

For instance,the recent CNN-IBN-The Week-CSDS opinion poll showed that the BJP was set to bag 148-160 seats in Madhya Pradesh,leaving the Congress way behind with 52-62. In Chhattisgarh,the poll predicted that the BJP could get 61-71seats as against 16-24 to the Congress. In Rajasthan,it said the BJP would return to power,winning 115-125 seats. The Congress tally there would be between 60-68 seats,it said.

Opinion polls by two leading channels before the announcement of the election schedule also predicted a dismal show by the Congress.

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