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Political parties spar over opinion polls

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Political parties spar over opinion polls
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New Delhi: Political parties Monday sparred over the issue of opinion polls, with BJP saying only losers demand a ban on such surveys even as the Congress said it never sought such a prohibition.

CPI-M said it has no objection on conducting of the opinion polls but the results should not be published once the election process starts. It also cautioned against manipulation of such polls.

AICC wrote to Election Commission last week favouring restriction on the publication and dissemination of opinion polls during polls while noting that the random surveys were 'erroneous', 'lack credibility' and could be 'manipulated' by vested interests.

Commenting on this, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said on Monday that though psephology is still maturing in India and some opinion polls do go wrong, it does not mean they should be banned.

"If the polls can be legitimately banned in this country, the next step would be to ban political commentators from giving assessments favourable to some and adverse to some others. A potential loser in an election cannot seek to alter the rules of free speech," Jaitley said.

"There are opinion polls and opinion polls. Some have acquired credibility and some can easily be ignored. Some are cases of even 'participatory psephology'. Whatever may be the reliability or otherwise of these polls, can they be prohibited or banned?" he said in an article.

Congress, on the other hand, said it has not sought a ban but only expressed its view favouring prohibition on such surveys which some of its leaders dismissed as a "racket", "farce" and "manipulated" exercise.

Congress spokesman Meem Afzal said there is an attempt to portray that Congress is opposing opinion poll. "This is wrong. We did not say anything on our own. Off course we have given our opinion." He said the Congress only endorses the view of the EC on the issue.

Afzal also pointed out that when EC had convened a meeting of political parties to elicit their views on prohibiting or restricting opinion and exit polls during elections in 2004, political parties had "unanimously" agreed that the results of such surveys should not be published before the closing of all phases of elections.

Ahead of Assembly elections in five states in December this year, EC had again sought the views of the political parties on whether to ban opinion polls after the Centre earlier asked it to hold fresh consultations on the matter.

In a letter dated October 4, EC asked various recognised national and state-level political parties to give their views on the issue by October 21.

It then sent a reminder on October 25 asking the parties to respond by a fresh deadline of November 4. In a written reply to EC on October 30, Congress said it "fully endorses the views of the Election Commission of India to restrict publication and dissemination of opinion polls during election (time).

"In fact, opinion polls during elections are neither scientific nor is there any transparent process for such polls," Congress said in its official response to EC.

"Our leaders have always said that we do not have faith in it (opinion polls). We always said they were doubtful," he added.

PTI

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