Television

Parties want exit, opinion polls banned

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NEW DELHI: The Election Commission would take a decision by Thursday on the issue, but editorial space of TV news channels and newspapers and magazines are now under threat as an all-party meeting called by the Commission today strongly demanded that all opinion polls be banned as it could sway voter sentiment.

On the vexed issue of political advertising, however, which was also part of the agenda of the all-party meeting, the EC desisted from making its opinion public saying the issue was sub-judice and its stand would be conveyed to the Supreme Court by Thursday when the next hearing is slated. Still Commission sources indicated that most political parties wanted a set of do's and don'ts on the matter of political advertising.

The election commissioners have gone out of Delhi today on official tour to oversee election-related work.

Speaking to indiantelevision.com, a senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal today said that the EC did not convey its stand on the issue of political advertising to political parties.

According to EC sources, transmission/broadcast of exit polls, to be conducted soon after the polling on 10 May, the last phase of polling in the country, will be allowed.

Meanwhile, the view of the all-party meet on opinion polls would go a long way in strengthening the belief of the EC, which is also not in favour of any sort of polls/surveys in the run up to the general elections and assembly elections in some states like Andhra Pradesh.

The EC meeting took place at a time when issues like political advertising on the electronic medium and pre-poll surveys have been pitchforked into the limelight.

The Supreme Court, in an interim order, has banned offensive poll advertisements on TV channels, while warning that if political parties do not desist from such activities of making personal attacks on individuals, then slanderous advertisements would be made an electoral offence that can lead to disqualification of a candidate or a party under EC-mandated norms.

Six national political parties and 45 state parties were invited to the meeting to discuss a gamut of poll-related issues.

The commission, which favours a ban on all kinds of exit and opinion polls, had convened the all-party meeting to evolve a consensus on controversial issues like opinion/exit polls and surrogate advertisements.

While there was consensus on the issue of opinion/exit poll, political parties had divergent views on the issue of personal attacks. All the parties sought a clear definition of ''personal attack'' averring that the present reference was not clear on several aspects, a United News of India report stated.

The BJP said while they favoured a ban on raising the issue of personal attack, including character assassination, the "foreign origin issue is not covered under the personal attack." The UNI report quoted senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra as saying, "It is the core political issue for his party."

Both Malhotra and Sibal opined that opinion polls should be banned on the first day of poll notification by the EC.

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