As Assembly elections in five States draw near, opinion polls have started gaining attention, and the Congress’ recent stand, expressing its agreement with the Election Commission’s view that such polls should be banned, has earned the ire of the Opposition parties.

The Congress wrote to the Election Commission favouring its proposal to “restrict publication and dissemination of opinion polls’’ during elections. It said the process of opinion polls was neither scientific nor transparent and that opinion polls could mislead people.

A few weeks ago, the party raised questions on the credibility of pre-poll surveys but said it was not in favour of banning them.

Opposition parties said the Congress was scared as recent opinion polls projected a poor show by the party in States where Assembly polls are scheduled over the next few weeks. “I do not think anyone can stop someone from conducting opinion polls. Will the Congress also start demanding that election rallies should be banned,” BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.

CPI leader D. Raja said, “Of course, the Congress has reasons to worry about the recent poll surveys which are coming out every now and then. These polls show that its graph is declining and it will face defeat in the coming elections.”

Shiromani Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral also criticised the Congress for favouring a ban on opinion polls. Countering the Opposition attack, Congress leader Rashid Alvi said opinion polls tend to mislead people.

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 to restrict publication and dissemination of opinion polls during the election.’’

The Congress said that surveys lacked “credibility’’ and could be “manipulated.” It said that 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.