Suppose a Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi gets fewer votes than the overall NOTA (None Of The Above) votes and based on the post-election outcome, becomes the prime minister of the country – wouldn’t it be ridiculous, wouldn’t it be sacrilegious, when a candidate rejected by the majority of the electorate is given the charge to run a democratic country.
Okay, it is not going to be the case with Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi of the moment, but we should not be surprised, if we get an election result with significant number of seats showing significantly higher share of NOTA votes even in the very first election implementing the ‘Right To Reject’ option. Recently, the Supreme Court made it mandatory and asked the Election Commission of India to introduce the NOTA option on EVMs (electronic voting machines) and ballot papers.
On an average, 30-40 per cent voters do not vote in elections in India we find if we carry a voter turnout analysis of different elections. Reasons vary for not participating in the elections but the major reason has been the voter’s apathy to the electoral process where he finds the political parties or the candidates in fray not worthy of being elected.
As the voter did not have any option to express his displeasure than to go to the booth, complete the formalities like getting the designated finger the ink-marked, approach the polling officer and tell him he did not want to cast his vote as he found none of the candidates were worthy. The officer then would make his entry in a prescribed form and would take his signature or thumb impression. A complex, tedious and repulsive process that didn’t promise the voter secrecy of his decision! And having no secrecy with such decisions, at local level, with a polluted Indian politics, may well have its consequences.
So, the option was there but was not practical. In fact, was illogical. Also, many would not be aware that this option (right? – Section 49-O of The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961) even exists.
But after the Supreme Court order making it easier and thus practical to exercise this right as well as ensuring the secrecy, we can expect significant jump in the voter turnout, and a significant portion of this jump would certainly be the NOTA votes, voters who don’t vote because they don’t approve the candidates.
Yes, this is going to be a long-term process, spread over elections. But an upward trend of surge in NOTA votes would inspire others, who do not cast their votes for similar reasons, to participate in the electoral process.
It is true, India is still not a mature democracy and elections are not fought on development issues but on silly considerations of caste, religion and regionalism. It is true voters do not react maturely when they select candidates on these lines, when they select tainted candidates and candidates with criminal cases against them, when the elect candidates languishing in jails.
But this simple way to empower them with an option to reject all would certainly push them, who waste their vote by voting on silly considerations, to think otherwise, if not tomorrow, then, in the long run, when rejection of candidates would become a sustained trend election after election.
Also, another objection by the naysayers is this ‘Right To Reject’ is not rejection in real terms. Even if the NOTA votes polled are 20 per cent of the overall votes cast, it cannot disqualify a wining candidate even if he gets just 10 percent of the overall votes. True! But, for how long can this irresponsible show continue?
Obviously, there would be voices. And the demands would intensify with increasing share of NOTA votes in the overall vote-pie.
That would set in motion the fight to demand the ‘Right To Recall’ and hence subsequently, the ‘Right To Reelection’, cancelling election process in constituencies with share of NOTA votes dwarfing votes gained by all other candidates, recalling poorly performing candidates and holding the polls again to select the suitable candidates.
Once, the ‘Right To Reject’ becomes a practiced electoral process in the country with voters effectively using it, lawmakers cannot continue with their sham without its visible public consequences.
Yes, it is not going to happen soon. But the best outcome of this Supreme Court decision is it is going to open fronts for further ‘rightful’ demands in the future of Indian democracy.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/