The word 'ban' is so potent that even those who do not know what is going on suddenly become agitated. Needless to say, these are what we charmingly refer to as the cream of society. This is not elite in the posh sense. You will find crumpled kurtas, jholawaalas, bidi-smokers, Old Monk drinkers in this crowd. Should you dare to even want a discussion, you will be deemed a conservative.
Now, here comes the rub. The rightwing political groups are part of the move against the ban on opinion polls.
Reportage and commentary have stuck to two neat divides of to ban and not to ban.
It is the AICC that has asked the Election Commission for "restriction on their [poll findings] publication and dissemination during elections". Congress party general secretary Digvijay Singh said:
“...These have become a farce. They should be banned altogether. The kind of complaints, information that I have got show that anybody can pay and get a survey as desired...In a country of 1.2 billion people, how can a few thousand people predict the trend. It has become a racket. So many groups have sprung up.”
One may have issues with the man, and also accept the possibility that the party is responding in such a manner because some trends are going against them. However, it is typically churlish to suggest that it is due to fear of Modi, especially as in the past the BJP too had problems with such polls.
Not so now. Narendra Modi is agitated by this undemocratic behaviour:
"Those who have followed Indian politics and the workings of the Congress party after Independence would agree that the stand of the Congress Party does not come as a surprise. The biggest casualty of the Congress Party’s arrogance while in power and its tendency to trample over Institutions has been our Fundamental Right to Free Speech."
How much of freedom of speech and expression could he possibly believe in when his government has banned the screening of films and art galleries have been destroyed in his state? Perhaps he should have asked for opinion polls to find put the public reaction. He has issues with the occasion when there was a clampdown on the social media. It is only natural for him to have expressed "solidarity" because most of the accounts were part of the disruption process. These same accounts are out to discredit anyone who exposes their government and ministers.
It does not in any manner imply that other political parties are not prone to such muzzling, but do we really consider such chaos as democratic?
To digress: The Congress came up with the ridiculous suggestion that the marshes in Madhya Pradesh should be covered because the lotuses in them would be publicity for the BJP election symbol and against the campaign rules. This is asinine, and the party was called out on it.
Modi further writes:
"My concern is not limited to this proposal to ban opinion polls. Tomorrow, the Congress may seek a ban on articles, editorials and blogs during election time on the very same grounds. If they lose an election they may then seek a ban on the Election Commission and if the Courts do not support them then they may say why not ban the courts! After all this a Party that resorted to imposing the Emergency in response to an inconvenient Court Verdict."
A politician will target only his immediate opponents, notwithstanding the fact that he will camouflage it as a principled stand.
There is a rather misguided perception that this amounts to banning opinion. It does not. Polls are based only on random selection. Everybody knows that, like rigging at booths, these too can be manufactured, especially since today the process has gained a certain sex appeal where titillation works. So, you have trends that do not commit and talk about a wave and sway. This is really devious, for they are wiling to to play into selective hands until they can retain the primetime slot. There is nothing to lose for the sponsors, because the end result can be attributed to several aspects, including low voter turnout due to everything from climatic to anti-climactic factors.
If they are so useless, then why want to do away with them at all? My reasoning is that it once again props up a limited number of people as the constituency and the deciding factors. The impact works as auto-suggestion, and we have the great Indian middle-class with its online shopping and yuppie dreams believing in any spectacle.
It is particularly important this time — whether during the upcoming Assembly polls or the general elections next year — for it has become a circus where the competition is between acrobats and clowns. Arvind Kejriwal has used his now-patented idea of having transparency. How can there be transparency in opinion polls? They are safe, for they do not stick their necks out.
To the hyperventilating suggestion that this could be a prelude to banning of other forms of expression, it has been done before and not because of opinion polls. (Not too long ago, a spoof site on Modi was blocked.) The media is often restricted due to commercial considerations that want to cozy up to certain political groups. This is an ongoing bias. However, a reading of any analysis is most certainly less random and quite clearly an opinion. The right to reject that viewpoint is embedded in it.
One cannot say the same about opinion polls where amidst charts and chants you are being bulldozed into believing something that may not even be an outright lie, forget the truth.
Rather interestingly, the Election Commission has confirmed the new symbol for the 'None of the Above' option, where voters reject all the candidates.
Is NOTA an opinion? It sounds good on paper. But it won't have an impact.
The EC has already clarified that the candidate securing the highest number of votes would be declared elected even if the number of electors going for the NOTA option surpassed the votes polled by the electoral contestants.
There goes the non vote. NOTA is a wasted opinion, and chances are that those who have made this choice would publicly claim otherwise, if the party that comes to power looks cosmetically good. Will those who opted for NOTA come out and claim to be votaries of it?
In some ways, the rejection of all candidates is a rejection of the electoral process. If no one is good enough, then just boycott. 'None of the above' reeks of self-righteousness, rather than an opinion.
© Farzana Versey
FV, Good day!ReplyDelete
Both subjects good notes from you.
Opinion poll by vested interests is dangerous psychological manipulation on media-trusting mass. A white collar fraud equivalent, with state at stake for 5 years.
Multiple diversity and quantum of India, with inherent diverse local issues,timing,sampling,if sampled at all,size,dispersion ...
nope, no poll survey can represent 850 million voters.
This irrespective of who is "declared" winner.
Or, may be who is the best bidder or manipulator.
It needs a ban, since regulation will leave loopholes to play; & say 'sorry' after reaping impact.
NOTA: Current status simply makes it notional,with no impact.
Will NOTA deciding public take the pain to poll it for statistics!
"How much of freedom of speech and expression could he possibly believe in when his government has banned the screening of films and art galleries have been destroyed in his state?"ReplyDelete
FV, the hypocrisy of one person or a political group seems to be irrelevant to the fact that freedom of expression exists in constitutional republics to ensure freedom of political expression above all else.
The losers in the ruling party ought to be ashamed of themselves for destroying fundamental tenets in the constitutional for political gains, especially losers like Digvijaya Singh, who has made a living abusing state power for political purposes.
If these is any lesson to be learnt from the past from other constitutional republics, it is that stifling political expression, whether in the forms of polls or advertising, causes more harm than allowing such forms of expression. But of course, the Indian Constitution is already worthless in defending freedom of political expression thanks to the first amendment passed by likes of Nehru and other losers who we refer to as "glorious leaders of the past"...but I digress.
All the newer restrictions of freedom of expression are a direct fallout of the lack of constitutional protection to freedom of speech in India. Anyone can go around pretending their sentiments have been offended and get citizens thrown in prison for expressing themselves, and yet we Indian pretend that India is a "boisterous democracy with a culture of dissent" or similar nonsense, when the reality is the exact opposite. The so-called "dissenters" have all been moulded by the very entities they claim to be dissenting against.
Back on topic, I do not see the current ruling party actually challenge talking points and debate policies, but rather indulge in abusing the power of the state vested in the ruling party to destroy the fundamentals of a constitutional republic.
For once, any politician or person who throws a wrench in such wanton abuse of constitutional powers needs support for that deed. Now, this has gotten me worked up enough to go punch that sack of sawdust hanging from the ceiling.
Digvijaya Singh:"..In a country of 1.2 billion people, how can a few thousand people predict the trend. It has become a racket."ReplyDelete
FV, Digvijaya Singh's ignoramus rabblerousing tool credentials are in display with the above comment, but that is not a surprise to most people I am sure. Opinion polls, when done right can provide a glimpse into electoral trends, which is useful information for political parties, but then politics in India is all about leading the rats into the river like the pied-piper of Hamelin. Provide freebies at public cost to a poor electorate and hope to reap benefits, so who needs opinion polls anyways, "..because poor people are all clearly too stupid to think for themselves" (or so we would have to believe if we listened to Indian political parties).
Polling, when done following principles of statistical data collection, such as sampling a representative sample set without any bias in the selection process, is a useful and enlightening tool, and is the bread and butter of most marketing and advertising agencies.
Politics is all about the success of political ideas of different kinds, and one would think politicians and political parties would like to coopt winning ideas and messages and build policies on such ideas, but such politics is not the norm in India clearly. Sub standard and ignorant rhetoric and policymaking rules the day.
(NOTA: Current status simply makes it notional,with no impact.
Will NOTA deciding public take the pain to poll it for statistics!)
(the hypocrisy of one person or a political group seems to be irrelevant to the fact that freedom of expression exists in constitutional republics to ensure freedom of political expression above all else)
What is the “all else” if not such digressions that pass muster? By the same token one can say that Digvijay Singh is an exception, and the fact that as of now the Congress has asked its spokespersons not to appear on TV shows discussing opinion polls at least gives the impression that it is walking the talk.
Agree with you that in practice FoE has not been practised as well as it should have been. However, I do not see opinion polls as part of such expression. And it is not only political opponents that have a problem. Activists object to ads for often genuine reasons.
(Anyone can go around pretending their sentiments have been offended and get citizens thrown in prison for expressing themselves, and yet we Indian pretend that India is a "boisterous democracy with a culture of dissent" or similar nonsense, when the reality is the exact opposite. The so-called "dissenters" have all been moulded by the very entities they claim to be dissenting against.)
Yes. So, if dissent is an iffy subject, then one must introspect on several dimensions whether it comes from a political party or the beatniks.
I am with you regarding political descent into freebies. My point is that with such polls, one may encourage more of such sops. The ones ahead to consolidate their position; those lagging to get ahead. And the fact is that poor people are for obvious reasons more interested in food and clothes, irrespective of why and how they get them. It does not demean their intelligence but of those who try to buy them.
Am sure marketing agencies can find polls about langurs munching bananas etc to keep their bread buttered.
(For once, any politician or person who throws a wrench in such wanton abuse of constitutional powers needs support for that deed. Now, this has gotten me worked up enough to go punch that sack of sawdust hanging from the ceiling.)
I’d call that abuse of power and trampling on the freedom of that sack! But I like to see people get all worked up :)
"Agree with you that in practice FoE has not been practised as well as it should have been. However, I do not see opinion polls as part of such expression. And it is not only political opponents that have a problem. Activists object to ads for often genuine reasons"ReplyDelete
FV, If the problem all of these activists and defenders of sanity, decency and all that's sweet and cuddly in the world have a problem with how polls are conducted, they should push for polls to publish their methodology to standards while publishing polls. When conducted properly polls offer valuable information to the voter and no entity, group or caring individual has any restricting such information from being revealed on the rather arrogant and self-serving claim that "polls must be banned because they mislead" - that is the exact kind of worthless thought process that has resulted in the first constitutional amendment because of which rationalists like sanal edamaraku are now outlaws from their own country because they dared to point out the superstitious and ignorant ways of a religious group. India is all Banana and No Republic -- a glorified zimbabwe for the most part if all the "do-gooders" and "decent people" have their way in banning any form of dissemination of information in politics.
PS: The same morons in India who will tell you that "it is unconstitutional to not have scientific temper" (as if such things can be mandated by the constitution, like it is in the Indian constitution) will the same ones claiming people should go around offending other people's religious sentiments.
FV, anyone who thinks banning opinion polls or any other form of dissemination of information is acceptable in a constitutional republic needs to take good long look at themselves in the mirror if they want to look at an enemy of the public interest.ReplyDelete
Information in the public domain always comes with a caveat emptor warning, unlike information from the government which must always be in the public interest. Since politicians spread a lot of disinformation that affects voter behavior, shouldn't there be a ban on lies by politicians first before a ban on opinion polls? "Ban it" seems to be the knee jerk reaction for most issues in India, most because it is the easy thing to do...never mind that implementing/enforcing such bans are never done, resulting in partial enforcement of such "bans" that end up reinforcing the tyranny of the ruling party of the day, as it has been happening with the current ruling party.
"I’d call that abuse of power and trampling on the freedom of that sack! But I like to see people get all worked up :)"ReplyDelete
FV, I have this strange superpower over that sack - never hits me back, no matter what I do to it. :-)