Let’s look at the idea of giving the voter the right to exercise his/her option to opt for NOTA (none of the above) on the EVM in case he/she does not like to vote for any one (editorial page, “NOTA small matter, this,” Oct.9). Earlier, when voting by stamping on the ballot paper system was in force, there was full scope to make a vote ‘invalid’ by ‘stamping for different candidates’, ‘not stamping it at all’, ‘mutilating the ballot paper,’ etc. With the introduction of the EVMs, invalid votes have been eliminated. By implementing NOTA, we will only end up reintroducing the scope for legalised “invalid” votes. Moreover, it is not a reform at all nor does it help to strengthen the democratic fabric.
An in-depth national debate is called for before clinching the issue.
It is indeed disappointing to see a former CEC espousing the cause of negative voting. It is certainly not the answer to the criminalisation of politics nor will it spur political parties to field taint-free candidates. Mr. Gopalaswami’s suggestion to extend the negative vote concept to the rejection of all candidates will seriously impair the democratic process of elections. It is also unclear how he came to the conclusion that all parties will field only tainted candidates in a constituency as only in that context he implores the voters to exercise the option of “rejection.”
J. Anantha Padmanabhan,
That the quality of candidates will improve dramatically is largely misplaced. It may be noted that the rarely used option 49-0 already exists though one has to fill up a form in advance and give it to the electoral officer concerned. The “none of the above” option on the EVM will only ensure the secrecy of those who choose that option and nothing else. Unless all voters cast their votes using the option “None of the above,” fresh elections cannot be held. What we need is for each political party to be more careful in selecting a candidate who has a clean image and is committed to serving his/her people with sincerity and dedication. The process of choosing a candidate has to be more open and democratic and as far as possible with the involvement of the stakeholders — the voters.
Even though I applaud the judicial activism shown by the apex court in introducing NOTA, I doubt its practicality. Will the common man stand in a queue for six hours so that he can vote for no one? Those who are too lazy to vote will continue to be too lazy not to vote also.
If the NOTA option emerges as the most resorted to option, which means that all candidates have been rejected by the people, is it not logical to ask the political parties who fielded candidates in that particular constituency to bear the cost? I believe this move will eliminate criminals from entering the political fray and political parties from imposing persons with dubious credentials on us.
T. Anand Raj,
The first challenge however is to make people aware of how large a responsibility it is, when choosing the option. The duty of NOTA is not as an option but as deterrence to bad candidature. Hence, if not responsibly utilised both by politicians and people alike, it may add to the problem rather than the solution.
The NOTA votes, unless polled in large numbers, will not impact the electoral outcome. In other words, the NOTA votes will have the tag of “glorified invalidity.”
The NOTA button can become a game changer in voter empowerment if the votes polled under it can be proportionately reduced from the valid votes recorded in the EVM, depending on the percentage of votes secured by each candidate. Naysayers will have the satisfaction of seeing their disapproval reflected on the verdict. Unless this is done, traditional abstainers will keep indoors on election day. Politics cannot be rid of criminals through symbolic gestures.
The verdict of casting negative votes will ultimately prove to be a useless exercise. In the first place, very few people would like to bear the burden of standing in a queue before the polling booth only to press the rejection button to convey that they find no candidate of their choice to vote for. They’d rather prefer to stay at home and abstain from voting.
Second, in our electoral system, electorates vote for symbols of political parties rather than the man behind the symbol. Finally, even if voters cast negative votes in large numbers, in that case too a candidate whom a majority of voters dislike must win, of course with a slender majority.
Ujjal K. Pal,