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#India – Media freedom under attack as govt supports ban on opinion polls #censorship

Anurag Batra on Sun, 11/10/2013 – 17:32

An insecure and anxious government always displays characteristics of becoming authoritarian, even in a democracy. When its power is being challenged and its fallacies being brought to light, such a government can be defensive and can adopt tactics to gag every discourse that goes against it.

 

Such attributes are now being displayed by the UPA-led Indian government which is adopting hypocritical stances after coming under attack from different quarters. One recent decision in this regard has been its support to ban the opinion polls. It is pertinent here to mention that it was this same government, who, in the year 2005, had supported the in the Supreme Court.

 

It has been a long-held view of the Election Commission (EC) that opinion polls are neither scientific nor credible and could be misused. The EC has proposed that opinion polls be banned from the day the Commission announces poll dates till the final phase of polling. Opinion polls are in any case meaningless after elections have been held.

 

Political parties, on the other hand, worry about opinion polls’ influence on voters. Of late, however, opinion polls have become a handy, perhaps overused, tool in the hands of the organisations to gauge the mood of the electorate. While opinion polls are a view of a small crosssection of the electorate, credible organizations are known to stay clear of dubious pollsters. Under this circumstance, political parties favouring a ban on opinion polls are clearly undermining the fundamental right of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution — specifically, the ’s right to disseminate information and the voter’s right to know.

 

That the UPA is insecure and also worried about the influence the opinion polls can have on the voters when they actually go to vote, can be gauged from the current opinion polls’ estimates. In all four major poll-bound states of Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, opinion polls show the Congress losing badly. While the Congress puts on a brave face by questioning these surveys, the surveys also seem to fear them. Ironically, the BJP is against the opinion polls at present despite the fact that in 2004, the Congress and BJP were on the same side in demanding ban on opinion polls after the notification of the then election dates. Modi has now simply said the Congress is scared of him and thus seeking to ban opinion polls.

 

But in the general elections held soon after 2004, surveys rooted for the BJP-led NDA while voters cast their lot with the Congressled UPA. A year later, in October 2005, the UPA government opposed the EC’s plea to ban opinion/exit polls in the Supreme Court.

 

– See more at: http://www.impactonnet.com/Media-freedom-under-attack-as-govt-supports-ban-on-opinion-polls#sthash.elBamg0e.dpuf

 

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