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 commission’s 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 EC’s 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 BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi blogged: “...The stand of the Congress party does not come as a surprise... The biggest casualty of the Congress party’s 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