Many readers have expressed their disappointment over the Election Commission’s clarification on NOTA — that irrespective of the number of voters who exercise the no-vote option, the candidate polling the highest number of votes will be declared the winner. But the Election Commission has no choice in the matter. The Constitution mandates the framework of conducting elections, gives Parliament the responsibility to make the necessary laws on the electoral system, and provides for an Election Commission to conduct and supervise elections.
What the Supreme Court did was to point out that the voter had a constitutional right to exercise his choice in the most meaningful way — and had a right to indicate his rejection of all candidates. Taking the implication of the judgment forward will need a law — which only Parliament can enact.
The EC is right in clarifying what NOTA means. It has the duty to inform and educate the electorate on election procedures. We are naive in thinking that NOTA will not make any difference if the candidate getting the largest number of votes is declared elected. If, in a constituency, NOTA gets a majority, parties will compete to get a share of that ‘vote bank.’ They will be forced to put up a better candidate in the next election. Changes may not come in the immediate elections but NOTA is a right step. We should not get discouraged and shy away from casting a no-vote, if necessary, thinking it will result in nothing.