BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Friday welcomed the Supreme Court verdict, giving voters the right to reject candidates on the ballot, and advocated making voting compulsory. But the Congress was cautious, saying it would react only after studying the ruling.

However, the Left parties differed with the judgment, arguing that the ‘no vote’ option was a “minor” aspect of comprehensive electoral reforms, which should be debated by Parliament.

Curiously, there was no formal response from the BJP.

Writing on his blog, Mr. Modi maintained that his government had attempted twice to bring in legislation on the right to no vote as well as compulsory voting, but the Governor did not give assent to the Bill passed by the Assembly.

“Right now, if there are 10 candidates contesting from a seat, we are compelling the voters to choose from those 10 candidates. This judgment will empower the voters to express their anger and reject all of them. The voters can give a message that we do not like the candidate or the candidates’ party or that party’s policies. This will give out a very strong message to parties — they will be forced to think why people are not accepting them. It will make them more responsible.”

He said compulsory voting could make our democracy stronger, easing fears about elections becoming a display of money power.

The CPI(M)’s Polit Bureau said it had been advocating comprehensive electoral reforms but these important issues had not been placed before Parliament so far. “The Supreme Court’s judgment to include a ‘no vote’ on the ballot is only a minor aspect of the reforms. These matters are being dealt with piecemeal by the judiciary at a time when comprehensive reforms, including proportional representation, steps to curb money and muscle power, must be discussed and adopted by Parliament.”

CPI leader D. Raja said a ‘no vote’ amounted to negation of the right to vote. He said Parliament was the right forum to debate electoral reforms.

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