Electoral Issues

Opinion Poll:
Opinion polls are basically speculation of the results of an election based on the survey conducted from the voters.
Opinion polls have three types of impacts namely:
  • Bandwagon effect where indecisive voter chose to vote winning candidate;
  • Underdog effect where people vote out of sympathy for predicted looser and;
  • Cue taking effect where people chose not to vote seeing that their candidate is losing.
Opinion polls are considered significant in elections of a country because-
  1. They tell about the general mood of the voters to the parties and thus give them direction to form their election manifestoes according to the present demand of voters.
  2. It Compels political parties to launch a clean and honest candidate to win the elections.
  3. It enhances the freedom of speech and expression of voters as voters freely express their dissent or praise for the government policies.
But, it is also argued that Opinion polls are against the principle of free and fair elections because-
  1. It creates bias among the voters and they can’t use their right to vote freely.
  2. Many large political parties pays news channel to distort the opinion polls for their benefit.
  3. Most of the times in India opinion polls are not accurate, results of elections sometimes are completely different from the opinion polls.
  4. A multi-cornered contest with no requirement for winners to secure at least 50 per cent of the votes makes electoral seat predictions a futile exercise in India. Not only do opinion polls amplified by their noisy media partners routinely get it wrong, but they have the potential to inflict damage to the very notion of a free and fair election.
  5. Opinion polls play an inordinately profound role in shaping perceptions of likely voters. The average Indian voter is generally deemed to be vulnerable. This prompted the Election Commission recently to include photographs of candidates on the ballot to prevent confusion from multiple similar names. In this context, it is not difficult to fathom the potential for inaccurate and misleading opinion polls to sway voters. It is not possible for the average voter to distinguish between deliberate or unintended imprecision of these opinion polls, i.e. sins of omission versus commission.
  6. In Indian context, where substantial portion of its population is still illiterate and politically unaware, opinion polls can affect their voting pattern substantially.
So, both sides shows that there has to be a proper mechanism in which opinion polls are conducted so that their accuracy is enhanced and there should be a Model Code of Conduct for the Media also so that they behave in a fair manner.
Prisoners vis-a-vis Election
Prisoners cannot vote in India. Since they are deprived of voting rights, they would also be automatically disqualified from standing for elections during periods of incarceration.
2 issues in this:
  • It makes no offence based or sentence based classification i.e. prisoners are debarred from voting irrespective of gravity of crime.
  • It makes no distinction between convicted prisoners, under trials, and those in lawful custody. 65% are under trials
Law commission recommendations:
  • Strengthening the office of EC
  • Establishing an electoral offence against ‘paid news’
  • Setting up ‘election benches’ in HCs to curb delays
Funding of Political Parties
Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) reports that 75 per cent of the income of India’s six major parties comes from undocumented sources. Around half of these funds came in a period of four months around elections, largely in cash (for the Congress, this figure stood around 90 per cent). But party resources are a drop in the bucket because candidates are expected to foot the vast majority of their campaign expenditures. Ironically, while politicians of all stripes complain about unrealistically low campaign spending limits, candidates also routinely report spending just over half what they are legally entitled to (in reality, campaign spending exceeds the prescribed limit by several orders of magnitude).
Despite claims that 2014 marked India’s “good governance” election, a record number of MPs with criminal records (34 per cent) now grace the halls of the Lok Sabha. Twenty-one per cent of these lawmakers face serious charges like murder, attempted murder, and kidnapping. The historical and empirical evidence is clear that the electoral success of “muscle” is due, at least in part, to the advantages of money.
Critically comment on the role of opinion polls in elections in India. (200 Words)

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