ByÂ Mahitha Kasireddi:
Yesterday, a notice was served to all the flats in our apartment. It was an effort by the association members to spread awareness on the importance of voting rights. The notice contained procedure to enrol for a voter ID, important website links to check if our names are present in the electoral list and above all it addressed a key point which says that middle classes are the most ‘apolitical’ section and called for full participation in the next election. A few members are volunteering by providing the Form 6. But, what was the motivation they drew to mobilise people to the polling booths? Off course, the new fancy button on the EVM we all are excited about- “None of the above (NOTA)”. The notice holds the NOTA as a new empowerment in hand and calls it a victory of common man.
This year, Indian Polity has been heavily induced by ‘Juristocracy’. Three landmark judgments towards decriminalization of politics which have restored the faith of an average Indian. The vain attempts of the executive towards issuing an ordinance in order to achieve impunity for criminal politicians, can be well termed as nothing less than ‘interference with the exercise of judicial powers’. This also highlights the collective reluctance of politicians in bringing any reforms to polity. But, the one that is attracting large scale debates is the ‘Right to Reject’. The talk is in two aspects. One, political empowerment of all and right to expression. Two, a critical analysis on how this new option will serve democracy.
It is hard to deny the fact that this introduction will draw in new voters. The overall voter percentage shall definitely improve in the next elections. This move puts common man on top and shall also give rise to a consciousness among the political parties of being scrutinized for not nominating honest candidates. The main purpose of decriminalization of politics would be served to an extent. Albeit advantageous, a critical analysis needs to be launched.
Does the NOTA really serve democracy? Is it really a powerful tool as deemed to be? Are the political parties really worried over the new option?
When the court ordered the option to be made available here on, it did not provide any solution to the outcomes that it would lead to. When the percentage of NOTA votes is over 50%, election shall be cancelled and a re-election shall be conducted with a new list of candidates. The court although hasn’t mentioned for how long the rejected contestants shall remain disqualified. And are they eligible to fight elections from other constituencies? When an election is cancelled due to large number of voters saying none of the above, is it not unfair when even an honest candidate stands rejected? This is apparently possible because the negative vote is a vote against all the contestants.
The political parties may not be so worried over the new provision because the number of negative votes may not exceed the number of votes of the winning candidate. More than 50% of the electorates might exercise their vote to elect a member than not voting for anyone. The irony of NOTA shall be pointed out. The courts wanted to respect our right to express dissatisfaction with the candidates, but it may not be encouraging us to exercise out voting right. What is the point in going to the booth, standing in the line and at the end of the day not voting for anyone at all? This should not be way to serve democracy. Election in a democracy means participation by all to keep the country functioning, both the contestants and the electorates.
Talking of re-election, it has its own perks. The voters participation percentage in the second time election may be not the same as in the first one. Some of the new candidates who will be nominated freshly may have won with less number of votes than the previous ones. Again, this is a gross mistake. By spending twice over conducting elections we end up electing those politicians with whom we are not happy and believe them to be non deserving. The period between the election and re-election shall also lead to a lot of confusion and political instability. Major issues may be neglected with no leader attending the people and the growth could be stalled due to policy paralysis. All these shall be taken into consideration.
Imagine a hypothetical situation of a re-re-re election. We won’t fall short of contestants, but how about us? Would we be interested in election and voting? Those electors who actually choose one or the other candidate will be most disappointed with the developments. The police will have to be deployed in vigilance and security of the leaders until the elections are over. The incidence of paid news, distribution of freebies etc. will be rampant than ever before. The rejected candidates will become subject of news for the media. The cost of resources needed to conduct elections mainly staff and centres such as schools and colleges will go up. Usually, teachers and government employees are appointed at polling booths. Their work life will be affected and educational institutions will be forced to call off classes affecting the academics of students. All this leads to weakening of democracy rather than strengthening it.
Thus, the right to reject may not serve the democracy in practice but in principle, yes! The provision of casting a negative vote would be a powerful tool indeed only if it could be enabled against each individual candidate. This way, the criminals who want to extend their influence into politics could be uprooted. Also, politicians who do not serve well, corrupt and underperformers will be made accountable to public on the judgement (election) day.