CEC wants opinion polls banned, as a paid opinion poll could influence voters' decisions
With four States and one Union Territory preparing for the Assembly polls coming up in the next three months, Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi said some of the major areas of concern for the Commission were paid news, opinion polls and educating voters about the election process.
“Paid news is a complex issue. All political parties unanimously agree that it needs to be tackled. The bigger issue here is the voters [being deceived] and their opinion [being affected],” said Mr. Quraishi, addressing a media consultation here on Friday.
The elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal and Puducherry are scheduled to be held by May.
Opinion polls, like exit polls, should be banned because, just as in paid news, there was a possibility of a paid opinion poll influencing voters' decisions.
Answering a question about the steps taken to ensure the smooth conduct of the elections in areas with naxal activity, Mr. Quraishi said the Commission would ensure maximum safety for voters. “We will reduce polling areas, provide adequate security escorts to polling booths and take steps based on intelligence gathering,” he added.
On reforms in the election process in the country, he said keeping “criminals from contesting elections” was important. “Political parties say their opponents file false cases against them, but some means have to be evolved to stop this. Parties should not give ticket to such people.”
The Commissioner mentioned the need for a mechanism to enable deregistration of a political party: “The Election Commission has the power to register a political party, but there is no provision to deregister a redundant or bogus party.” He added that since donations to political parties were exempt from taxes, registered false parties could become a money-laundering device.
Voter education was another aspect being pursued by the Commission. “Citizen organisations should focus on spreading awareness about voting and selecting a good candidate,” he said. Speaking about the success of their awareness campaigns in different cities, Mr. Quraishi said “more young people should be involved in the process.”