Exit polls do influence the voters

I endorse V. Eshwar Anand’s assertion in his article “Towards free and fair polls: Limits of freedom of speech and expression” (April 21) that the Election Commission’s proposal for a ban on opinion and exit polls is not an infringement of Article 19 (1) of the Constitution but a sincere attempt to ensure free and fair polls.

In fact, examination of the restriction under Article 19 (1) appears to be lopsided. For, in the constitutional provisions, incorporated in Articles 324 to 329, for ensuring free and fair polls, “a secret ballot process” has clearly been laid. And this secrecy cannot be let out even after the completion of the elections and declaration of the results. The opinion polls and exit polls provoke one to sacrifice one’s constitutional obligation to maintain the secrecy. There is also the question of their baneful influence on the voters.

In our country, where voters still are polarised on class, caste and religion basis, these elections often help not only in tilting scales in favour of the holder’s favourites but also further the conflict-ridden class culture that our politicians have been promoting for their selfish ends since Independence. Thus, the holding of opinion and exit polls is against constitutional propriety.

BALVINDER, Chandigarh




Advertisements or ads are meant to be exemplars of restraint and decency in our democracy. Yet, these very qualities appear alien concepts to most political parties judging by the abysmally low standards of their ad campaigns in the ongoing elections. At a time when the polity is so vitiated and divided on sectarian, class and caste lines, such mudslinging can only undermine our fragile democracy further.

As regards opinion and exit polls, the agencies become dubious by virtue of the publications that carry their surveys. The media, close to a political party or group, would rather publish surveys that serve their political ends. The psephologists and pollsters cannot be made accountable unless they accept responsibility for both field work and data interpretation. More often than not, pollsters conveniently claim involvement in only one of the two processes. To sum up, apart from being legal and rational, the writer’s arguments on both issues are within the constitutional framework.

K.M. VASHISHT, New Delhi


Opinion polls and exit polls are biased, one-sided and tend to prejudice the voters as the psephologists and pollsters cannot guarantee political neutrality. Also, pollsters are invariably clueless and often grope in the dark due to either small samples or bad sample composition. As the variations and divergence of results are totally unreliable, the independent and informed choice of the voters gets affected.

The citizen’s freedom of speech and expression under Art 19 (1) of the Constitution does not allow unlimited liberty as reasonable restrictions can be imposed in the interest of the public good. As Attorney-General Soli J. Sorabjee has advised the Centre against the ban on opinion and exit polls through an Ordinance, the new government that comes to power at the Centre after the Lok Sabha elections should bring forward a constitutional amendment in Parliament, banning these polls till the final phase of polling is over.

Prof K.L. BATRA, Yamuna Nagar


Free and fair elections are key to the success of democracy. From the Chief Election Commissioner to the common man, everyone is concerned about free and fair elections so that people exercise their franchise fearlessly and elect good representatives to serve the nation better. The proposal for a ban on exit and opinion polls was acceptable to all the political parties. However, it was ruled out on account of a legal hitch.

Admittedly, the question is not the infringement of Article 19 (1) but to help voters make a judicious choice of the candidates. Notwithstanding Art 19 (1), exit and opinion polls may adversely affect the voters’ mind during the next phase of polling. There would have been no harm had the Supreme Court banned them, pending a close look by a Constitution Bench after the Lok Sabha elections.

Prof A.D. BHALLA, Ludhiana


I agree with the writer that liberty does not mean licence. One cannot misuse his freedom of speech and expression, particularly during the elections. The Constitution can be amended to the effect that a ban be imposed on exit polls till the last day of the last phase of elections. Let the TV channels conduct their opinion and exit polls, but their results should be telecast only after the last phase of elections.

The recent exit polls conducted by different TV networks are so different from one another that they make little sense. Results of one round can affect the results of other rounds.

The suggestion for inclusion of the expenses of a political party on TV ads in the poll expenses of the individual candidates is worth considering. This will ensure a level-playing field for all candidates in the elections.


Congress lacks leadership

WITH two more crucial phases of the Lok Sabha elections to go, I, like many other Indians, would like to take the liberty of giving my humble views on this subject. Undoubtedly, I want to see Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee continue to lead India, as the Prime Minister, towards greatness and prosperity.

While the Congress has also contributed significantly towards development in the past, at present it lacks a credible leadership which is acceptable to most Indians. Sadly, the Congress has handed over leadership to Mrs Sonia Gandhi whose only merit seems to be that she is the wife of Rajiv Gandhi and daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi.

In the Congress, there is no dearth of brilliant and veteran leaders such as Mr Narain Dutt Tiwari, Mr Arjun Singh, Mr Natwar Singh and Dr Manmohan Singh. Having placed Mrs Sonia Gandhi at the party’s helm of affairs, Congressmen have not only made a mockery of democracy but also played with the self-respect and dignity of the Indians. In my opinion, no sane voter will condone the Congress for this.



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