The no-vote option: Will Indians ever exercise it?
Democracy is all about choice and there have been calls to introduce a “none of the above” option in electronic voting machines so that guardians of the election process in the world’s largest democracy can reject candidates who don’t pass muster.
And if this is likely to get sucked into political wrangling – the fate of most pertinent issues in India – some say the Election Commission (EC), political activists and those urging the “sleeping population to wake up and vote” should advertise the virtues of Rule 49-O of the Conduct of Elections Rules, which allows you to register your disapproval.
A peek into the election rulebook reveals the following about 49-O: “Elector deciding not to vote – If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.”
Another website is running a signature campaign urging people to vote in favour of a “no vote” option.
Reports say the EC is in favour of such a provision, but is not empowered to implement it. The authority lies with the Centre which must amend the Representation of the People Act for the change to be incorporated.
The country began voting in the first stage of a staggered general election on Thursday. The outcome of the month-long five-stage poll, which will see hundreds of candidates in the fray for 543 Lok Sabha seats, will be known on May 16.
Polls indicate the ruling Congress party is most likely to return to power, but this time heading a weaker coalition.
The Indian electorate seldom has a say in a political party’s choice of a local representative. Reports say around a quarter of the elected Lok Sabha MPs had criminal cases pending against them in 2004.
More than half of the cases were for serious offences including murder, rape and large-scale corruption.
A majority of these leaders are contesting the elections this time and many say it will only be fair if discerning citizens, queuing up outside the over 800,000 makeshift polling booths, are given a chance to say “No, I will not vote”.