Some time before the last Lok Sabha elections, an email was circulated about a hidden rule in the Constitution. This email said that there existed a rule that provided electors with a ‘vote for nobody’ option during the polls. It also went on to say that if the number of these votes were greater than the maximum votes obtained by any candidate at a constituency, then voting at that area would forfeit and fresh elections would be held. Candidates who stood in that constituency would be disqualified from contesting in the re-polls and parties would have to select new candidates.
This was called the 49-0 rule.
Firstly, the 49-0 rule isn’t even in our constitution. It is a rule specified in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 which prescribes the regulations for conducting elections in India. According to it, a voter in any part of India has the option of not voting for any candidate standing for elections. The elector can select the ‘none of the above ‘ option in the ballot papers or in more recent times the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and the vote would be official. These votes would be kept separate and no matter how many people decide on the 49-0 option, a winner will be elected from the remaining votes.
In India, anything and everything can be made fraudulent. Our election system is one such case. In every election, we hear cases of excess ballot votes, or rigging of the EVMs or impersonation of people and missing names from electoral rolls. The 49-0 rule helps to dissuade the impersonation racket. Suppose an elector doesn’t want to vote because he/she doesn’t trust the current standing candidates, he can go to his voting booth and document the 49-0 option on his vote. Once he does this, nobody can impersonate him and cast a vote on his name.
Call for change
The latest electoral reforms which are yet to be passed calls for this ‘none of the above’ option to be available on the EVMs, because currently the only way a person can make use of this rule is to inform the officer at the polling booth of his decision and authenticate his action with his signature on a form. This however goes against the conception of secrecy during elections.
Some over- enthusiasts even call for re-elections as a consequence of the 49-0.
By far, the 49-0 rule has no future.
We are the world’s largest democracy. The basic underlying concept of a democracy is that the rulers of the country need to be chosen by the people. If people select for a ‘nobody’ during the votes and isolate themselves from the proceedings, the entire rationale behind such a system would be lost. Calling for re-elections as a by-result is only going to cause the country extra expenditure.
Voting in India is neither a fundamental right nor a duty. Elections in India are carried out on a large scale. People who wish to be a part of these mammoth proceedings come forward and vote. This may be the answer to why we have such low turn-outs during our Elections. Rarely have we ever seen a 100 percent turnout, even a fifty percent in some of the cities gives us a reason to rejoice. In the 2009 elections alone, the average turnout on the overall came to 59.5%. We need to work towards increasing our contribution. By opting for the 49-0, yes, the people will make a voice of their disapproval loud and clear, but to avail what?
We should rather choose from the best among the lot. Hard as that sounds, we have more than a billion people in this country, its not going to be hard choosing leaders if we give them a chance, especially new and independent ones.
The writer is a Chennai based correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.
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