The government is all set to have a law to ban opinion and exit polls once Lok Sabha and assembly elections are announced and till the last vote is polled.
This proposal by the Law Ministry comes nine years after the Supreme Court struck down the Election Commission's executive order on the subject.
The Union Cabinet will on Thursday discuss the ministry's proposal to insert a new section, 126 (B), in the Representation of People's Act, 1951, imposing this restriction for all phases of elections in a state or in the country.
The proposal has the backing of all major political parties like the Congress, BJP and Left, which were consulted before proposing the amendment. Even the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, which looks into media issues, has supported the restriction while asking that it be extended to all forms of electronic media.
Television channels and newspapers widely use opinion polls to gauge the mood of voters whereas exit polls help pollsters predict the outcome of elections. The Election Commission, however, feels these polls could influence voters. "We wanted a ban on exit and opinion polls as they can manipulate or may have undue influence on the outcome of elections," a Commission source said.
Mahesh Rangarajan, who conducts political analyses on the basis of such polls, said: “I don't understand its purpose. It is undermining the intellect of Indian voters, who have repeatedly proved poll predictions wrong, showing that they are not influenced by such polls.”
But the Election Commission, on the demand of political parties in 2004, had asked the government to amend the Representation of People's Act to impose the restriction of such polls. The Law Ministry's proposal comes months before scheduled assembly elections in Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. General elections are scheduled for April-Mayay 2009.