S Nihal Singh, former editor of The Indian Express and Statesman, is
a votary of opinion polls free of restrictions. He spoke to B S Arun of Deccan Herald.
The EC has again proposed for a ban on opinion polls before elections. Does not it go against the fundamental rights/freedom of speech?
Yes, the Supreme Court has nearly spelt it out as it forced the EC to withdraw its guidelines. Not just this, the then Attorney General Soli Sorabjee advised the government not to go for banning opinion polls as it violates the Constitution. It is unfortunate that EC now is back at it again. Opinion polls are part of a democratic process.
Some experts say there is no basis/ evidence for this proposal of EC…
It was former chief election commissioner S Y Qureshi who brought up the issue of opinion polls ban with all force. It was his happy horse. He said opinion polls should be banned because of the paid news issue. He was keen it should not be allowed, in his view it made playing field less level. I disagree with it, it is not a valid argument. There may be some restrictions on poll surveys in various countries. But to ban opinion polls altogether from the day of notification would be travesty of justice.
Does it not amount to undermining the intellect of a voter?
The EC proposal can mean that a voter gets easily carried away by the predictions in opinion polls…If this is the case, should all the freebies like free laptop, mobile, rice etc be banned?
We don’t have to equate the two. The main point is you are assuming the voter is ignoramus. In a democracy, a voter assesses various situations in his own
interest in terms of what kind of government he wants to be able to make up
his mind. I am totally against the ban with restrictions.
What is your view on banning exit polls?
Exit polls should not be put out before the end of the polling process. If it is done, it would be unfair.
Are political parties afraid of facing the truth before elections, that’s why they are opposed to opinion polls?
They are nervous. As polls approach, they are and it is a universal truth. They don’t want to be shocked if the opinion polls are goes against them. It deflates political parties to know that they are not doing well.
In case of elections being held in more than one state and in a staggered manner, as it is happening now, should or should not the EC announce the results immediately after polling in a particular state?
There can be two views. One, it can affect polling, two, that they are separate issues. One can argue both ways. I am open on this question.
EC at it again, out to ban pre poll surveys
When SC forced EC to retreat