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A ban on Opinion Polls should be resisted because it infringes on our Constitutional Rights

Friday, 8 November 2013 - 8:52pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk

Keshav Upadhye, spokesperson Maharashtra BJP, explains why his party opposes any measures to curtail freedom of expression.

Taking a 'U' turn from their fifteen days old stand, the Congress has officially made a statement to the  Election Commission that they want a ban on opinion polls. Fifteen days ago the Congress spokesperson clearly stated that, they do have issues about opinion polls but they are not in favour of banning it.

The BJP is not in favour of ban on opinion polls. During every election, whenever opinion polls were held, discussions revolved around the validity of the results of these polls. Those who fared badly in opinion polls stated that the poll got it wrong, and tried to ignore it. But this time, the Congress has demanded to the EC,  that opinion polls be banned.

Many a times it has been proven that the predictions and the actual results of elections were completely different from each other. For example, In the 2004 General Elections, opinion polls predicted that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would again come to power. However, in reality, the Congress formed the government. Even in the 2007 Uttar Pradesh state elections, not a single opinion poll predicted that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati would form a government. But Mayawati came in power proving every opinion poll  prediction wrong.

Opinion polls have a long history and all over the world, in democratic countries, they are allowed. India is a socio- culturally diverse country, and in such a country prediction is a very difficult task as there is no guarantee that the voter will reveal the truth of his decision to a pollster. However, instead of a ban on opinion polls what we should be discussing is how do we improve them. Can we mechanise the sample size and ask for transparency in the complete process, so that the question of manipulation and involvement of vested interests is laid to rest.

The Congress supported opinion polls during the 2009 General elections and 2013 Karnataka State Assembly Elections. Even a year ago, opinion polls predictions favoured the UPA..  At this juncture, congress is opposing opinion polls because there is Narendra Modi wave across India. 2014 is election year and opinion polls are  predicting that the BJPs prime ministerial  candidate, Narendra Modi, is far ahead than Congress’s  Rahul Gandhi and they say that there is an anti- congress wave in the country. The Congress, which is losing ground in election year, is worried about this emerging picture.  They are afraid that the voter who still has not made up his mind would favour Narendra Modi.

Around 4-5% of voters make up their mind at the last moment and such voters always want  to vote for the winning candidates and in many constituencies swing of 4-5 % of votes makes for  a huge difference.

Instead of being concerned with real issues like wrong policies of the government, the Congress is trying to suppress people's expression. We have already seen emergency which the Congress had imposed. At the time when Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev's movements were at their peak, there was a lot of aggressive criticism on social media against the government. But again instead of showing concern at the cause of the agitation, the  Congress Government tried to block people on social media.

Few months ago while media was criticising the Prime minister, one of the ministers openly said that journalists should be licenced. The same is now happening with opinion polls. It is a political party's prerogative as to  how seriously they take the outcome of an opinion poll. But expression of opinion is our right which is granted by the Constitution. How can it be banned? Maybe the Congress can succeed in banning the opinion,  but how can they kill  the message of an anti congress wave. Even in 1970’s when opposition was comparatively smaller, as soon as Emergency was lifted and elections were held,  the citizens of India defeated the Congress and  Indira Gandhi. Tomorrow the Congress may seek to ban articles or editorial on the same ground. Such a censorship in democratic country is unacceptable. Banning or restricting opinion polls is neither desirable nor permissible.

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