Most parties express opposition against conduct of such polls

With most political parties speaking out against opinion polls, the Election Commission has once again asked the government to enact a law banning the release of their results after the notification of elections.

This view was articulated in a letter to the Union Ministry for Law & Justice which had in September asked the Commission for its view on whether the ban on opinion polls should be effective from the date of announcement or notification of an election. The Ministry also asked the EC to hold fresh consultations with all recognised political parties on the issue of “banning” opinion polls so that “the necessary legislation may be moved.”

Of the 15 national and State parties which had sent in their views, only the Bharatiya Janata Party was against any restriction on the “conduct of or dissemination” of the results of opinion polls. The BJP’s contention is that any restriction would “fall in the realm of a restriction on the Fundamental Right to Freedom and Expression guaranteed in Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution.”

Though not averse to the conduct of opinion polls, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is of the view that the results should not be published during a reasonable period before the date of polling and till half hour after the conclusion of poll in all constituencies “as there could be several manipulated opinion poll results which could impact the voting pattern.”

Manipulation of polls was a common concern among most of the dozen parties opposed to opinion polls. The parties favouring a ban include the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal (United), the AIADMK, the DMK, and the DMDK. The Trinamool Congress said it had no comments to offer on the issue and would abide by the EC’s decision.

The Congress, in its written response to the EC, said opinion polls during election are neither scientific nor is there any transparent process for such polls. While the BSP said the pollsters contacted “limited and selective voters,” the AIADMK pointed out that several countries had similar limitations on the publication of opinion poll results. “As many as 16 of the 27 European Union countries ban reporting of opinion polls.”

The issue of banning opinion polls has been under discussion for nearly a decade now. In 2004, the Election Commission had sought a provision in the law for prohibiting publishing and dissemination of opinion poll results from the date of notification of an election. The Election Commission had made this recommendation after political parties unanimously spoke in favour of such a move

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