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Political parties divided on opinion polls

BJP leader Arun Jaitley wrote an article on his party website, saying that "a potential loser in the elections cannot seek to alter the rules of free speech". An opinion poll last week had predicted that the Bharatiya Janata Party was expected to form governments in three of the four Hindi heartland states going to polls in November-December. It had also said the BJP was ahead in the three-way race in Delhi.

The BJP prime minister candidate Narendra Modi also hit out at the Congress, and termed its suggestion to restrict opinion polls "puerile". The BJP's ally, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), appeared to speak in different voices in the matter. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said the Congress only revealed its desperation, seeing the writing on the wall, in seeking a restriction on the opinion polls.

SAD MP Naresh Gujral, however, said it was seen in the past that political parties use companies to influence voters. The Congress Monday defended its view that opinion polls should be restricted during elections, but asserted that it never opposed them. "We have never opposed opinion polls... but the party has maintained that they are doubtful... we don't trust them," Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal told reporters when asked about his party's response to the Election Commission (EC).

In its Oct 30 response to the EC, the Congress supported the commission's view that opinion polls should be restricted during election time. "We share the view of the Election Commission. Opinion polls during elections are not scientific. There is no perfect and transparent process for such polls," K.C. Mittal, secretary, legal and human rights department of the Congress, told IANS Sunday. The EC had sought the views of the political parties on restricting publication and dissemination of opinion polls during elections. According to the Congress response, these random surveys "lack credibility" and could be "manipulated and manoeuvred" by people with "vested interests".

Sources said the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has written to the commission that opinion polls do not reflect the correct picture of voters at large. It said such opinions were suceptible to being managed to confuse voters. Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said that results of opinion polls should not be published after the poll panel has made notification of elections. At present, a ban on the publication of opinion polls 48 hours before voting is over is operational. 

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