Strengthening Indian Democracy - Eastern Mirror
Sunday, March 26, 2023

Strengthening Indian Democracy

By The Editorial Team Updated: Feb 09, 2022 10:12 pm

Just like paid news, faulty or biased opinion polls are equally dangerous for any democratic set-up. This is why demands were raised to ban opinion polls or impose strict restrictions against it. It’s a pity that while Exit Polls have been banned until the voting process is over, no cautionary warning has been issued regarding opinion polls thus far. In 1998, the Election Commission of India (EC) had issued a guideline for these so called pollsters to follow. But a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court (SC) opined that the guideline in question could not be imposed in the absence of a law. Since then, the matter has been swept under the carpet and no effort has been made by lawmakers to make our electoral process truly free and fair. Amid rising apprehensions amidst current election fervour such opinion polls are even more dangerous. Supporters of opinion polls believe that banning or imposition of restrictions on it, will be a violation of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which grants freedom of speech and expression as fundamental rights to citizens. So, they argue that neither the government, nor the EC has the power to curtail this right. But in opposition to this view, those who seek a ban on opinion polls express the view that the same Constitution has given EC the power to hold free and fair polls and the power is absolute, unlike the rights granted in Article 19. But a deeper study of these claims and counter claims will reveal that in the name of rights both sides are misinterpreting the Constitution. Fundamental Rights are the tools to hold free and fair elections and never to act as a deterrent against it. In the absence of freedom of speech, talk of free and fair elections is meaningless. Similarly, fabricated facts may prevent the majority opinion from prevailing.

It is quite perplexing that while the debate regarding opinion polls has been going on for quite some time now, our lawmakers have failed to reach a consensus on it. As a result, during elections we come across plenty of opinion polls without knowing the methodology that pollsters have adopted to predict the poll outcome. In fact, rightly predicting the elections is a very difficult task in India due to its size and population. A sample size of 5000 people will never depict the true mood of the electorate considering that the country’s population is over 140 crore. Further, all the regions and states in India may not necessarily be on the same wavelength while voting. For example, while the northern part of the country voted against the then ruling Congress during 1977 general elections, the southern part of the country trusted the same party. Thus, policy makers along with the EC should find a way to prevent arbitrary opinion polls from acting as a stumbling block to free and fair polls. A comprehensive guideline for conducting opinion polls supported by the law should be implemented as democracy will be meaningless without a free and fair electoral process.

By The Editorial Team Updated: Feb 09, 2022 10:12:49 pm