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Congress stays away from debates on opinion polls

The Congress has decided not to participate in TV discussions on opinion polls, saying most election-related surveys were biased and did not declare conflict of interest.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2013 22:54 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi

The Congress has decided not to participate in TV discussions on opinion polls, saying most election-related surveys were biased and did not declare conflict of interest.

The issue of opinion polls has pitted the Congress against the BJP, with the ruling party backing an Election Commission proposal to restrict publication of pre-poll surveys during the election period. The BJP has accused the government of trying to restrict free speech.

“We believe there is a conflict of interest. The channels do not reveal names of people identified with organisations conducting such opinion polls,” Congress’ communication department head Ajay Maken told HT.

"For example, Yogendra Yadav of Aam Aadmi Party is still associated with CSDS and Yashwant Deshmukh of C-Voter is a close relative of RSS ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh. These psephologists are not neutral,” he said.

The Congress stand is attributed, in political circles, to various opinion polls predicting unfavourable results for the party in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and upcoming assembly elections in four states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan where it is locked in a direct fight with the BJP. Manipur is the fifth state going to the polls.

The Congress has maintained that it was open to discussing the merits of opinion polls but would not indulge and comment on projections.

The party had on October 30 told the EC that opinion polls are "unscientific, erroneous, lack credibility and could be manipulated and maneuvered by vested interests”.

The poll body had last month sought views from various political parties on its proposal banning pre-poll surveys once the election dates are announced. At present, no opinion polls are allowed 48 hours prior to voting.

Parties are divided over the issue. While the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Shiromani Akali Dal and Shiv Sena are in favour of a ban, the BJP and Nationalist Congress Party are against such a move. The Left parties are for reasonable restrictions.

Maken accused the BJP of double speak. "They had supported a ban on opinion polls at an all-party meeting in 2004 but have changed their position now," he said.

The BJP, however, rejected the charge. The party had agreed on restrictions on exit polls till the final round of voting was over, vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.

There have been strong voices within the Congress against opinion polls, with senior leaders, including party general secretary Digvijaya Singh, seeking an outright ban.