The Union Cabinet’s recent decision could sound the death knell for Exit Polls in India as the Government has decided that the results of the exit polls will have to be withheld till the last phase of the polling.
The decision was taken as many political parties had been against the Exit polls as they thought that such polls could be manipulated. Even a couple of years back the Election Commission had banned the telecast and the broadcast of the exit polls but the media houses had approached the Supreme Court. The order had to be revoked as the court allowed the telecast of the exit polls.
The states of Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh are due to have Assembly elections in a few months time whereas the Lok Sabha elections will be taking place at the beginning of 2009.
The Ministry of Law had wanted to modify the Representation of People Act of 1951 by inserting section 126 (b), “to restrict publication and dissemination of opinion and exit polls conducted during elections to the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies”.
Meanwhile exit polls have had a mixed response over the world. Some countries have completely banned exit polls all together whereas in others the broadcast of the polls cannot take place before the final vote has been cast. But on the other hand critics have said that this is against freedom of speech and the freedom given to the media especially in our country. At the time of elections, several media houses come up and conduct their own exit polls. The exit polls are generally a precursor to the actual polls but their results and findings may not always match that to the actual polls held.
In the countries of New Zealand as well as Singapore, exit polls have been completely banned whereas in most of the European countries like the United Kingdom and Germany do not allow the results of the polls to be displayed before the polling stations close and the last vote has been cast. It often happens that many exit poll groups combine with each other to provide an as accurate figure as possible. This collaboration was done during the general elections in 2005 in UK where the exit polls showed that the Labor Party would get a majority of sixty six seats and the figure was bang on.
In most of the American states, displaying the results of the exit polls is banned before the closure of the voting period. But it has been noted that these results have been leaked many at times. In a country like India the situation is different when compared to America as most of the people in our country are still illiterate and hence they can be easily manipulated by the exit polls. The exit poll results are also known to deter voters from sometimes actually waiting, for they feel that their preferred candidate is going to win or lose any way. Hence the Cabinet has decided to ban exit polls for the upcoming elections. Though the media houses will be up in protest against the ruling, how far they take it remains to be seen.
[Image source] http://www.hindu.com/2004/05/11/images/2004051106940101.jpg