The Congress on Monday pressed for a ban on voters opinion polls,a demand that the BJP denounced as being neither constitutionally permissible nor desirable.
Recent opinion polls have predicted defeats for the Congress in states holding assembly elections beginning later this month.
The Election Commission had sought views of parties on restricting the publication and dissemination of opinion polls during elections. The Congress responded on October 30,saying it fully endorses the commissions view,and that these polls were neither scientific nor credible,and could be misused. The polls were not carried out by a transparent process,the Congress said.
Party general secretary Digvijaya Singh said opinion polls were a racket. 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.
Singh demanded to know how,in a country of 1.2 billion people,a few thousand people (participating in a sample survey could) predict a trend. Opinion polls,he said,have become a racket… So many groups have sprung up (to conduct opinion polls).
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla alleged that opinion polls were at times manipulated. He said: Every Tom,Dick and Harry is coming out with an opinion poll… Obviously when media gives publicity,people get carried away.
Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal,however,said his party was only endorsing the ECs view. There has been an attempt… to show that Congress is opposing opinion polls. That is wrong, Afzal said. We did not say anything on our own… We have given a view… We have not written a letter on our own… We have just replied (to the EC).
But the BJP hit back strongly.
In a post titled Today opinion polls,what next? the BJPs prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi blogged: …The stand of the Congress party does not come as a surprise… The biggest casualty of the Congress partys arrogance while in power,and its tendency to trample over institutions,has been our Fundamental Right to free speech.
Opinion polls,Modi said,have had a mixed record he sarcastically mentioned the enlightened pollsters who had got their predictions wrong in Gujarat in 2002,2007 and 2012 however,there is an important principle and ethics here that hold true for every party and government. It was puerile,Modi said,to take an extreme step only because an opinion poll did not say what a party wanted to hear.
Tomorrow,the Congress may seek a ban on articles,editorials and blogs… 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… the Emergency in response to an inconvenient court verdict, he said.
Modis party colleague Arun Jaitley said in an article released by the BJP that only losers wanted opinion polls banned. Whatever may be the reliability or otherwise of these polls,can they be prohibited or banned?,Jaitley asked.
If (opinion) polls can be legitimately banned…,the next step would be to ban political commentators from giving assessments favourable to some and adverse to some others, Jaitley said. The leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha said the EC would be best advised to keep away from this controversy and allow the marketplace of democracy to accept or reject the findings of opinion polls.
The CPMs Sitaram Yechury said,Our belief is,if one wants to conduct opinion polls let him do it… However,the results should not be published after the election process starts.
BSPs Satish Mishra said,Our party is of the view that no outside influence which may affect and confuse the minds of electors… should be permitted.
The Trinamools Mukul Roy said his party would abide by the ECs decision. The CPIs D Raja said the EC should convene an all-party meeting. The Akali Dals Naresh Gujral said,The Congress was all for opinion polls when the wind was blowing in its favour.