The Supreme Court verdict directing the Election Commission to provide the NOTA (none of the above) button in electronic voting machines is another milestone in the country’s journey towards a full-fledged democracy (“NOTA small matter, this,” Oct. 9). It will deter political parties from promoting unscrupulous candidates. But NOTA cannot restrict their entry; it can only facilitate the victory of a less corrupt candidate. The legislature should enact a law providing for the right to reject.
NOTA is indeed a big step towards giving people the right to express their views with liberty. But it will take some time before voters realise the power that comes with NOTA, because there will be no campaigning for NOTA and most people do not know the implications of the provision. The EC must take the initiative so that more people become aware of the provision.
It is futile to expect improvement overnight in the overall criminalised scenario of politics. Indian democracy is still evolving, and NOTA and disqualification of convicted MLAs and MPs are small interventions. It will be a major embarrassment to all parties if no candidate from a constituency wins people’s confidence. That will encourage the parties to field candidates with a cleaner image later, if not in the immediate future.
NOTA will not be useful if the votes under the category are treated as invalid. The EC should conduct re-elections with a fresh set of candidates if NOTA votes cross a certain percentage of the total votes polled.
Yathirajula Bhanu Chander,
Nothing is perfect. NOTA is only one of the ways to curb criminalisation of politics. The EC is duty- bound to ensure free and fair elections and to keep corrupt politicians from coming to power. NOTA is not a magical wand that will change the political system; it is an initiative aimed at cleaning it.
Shaikh Jamir Munir,
NOTA cannot be the same as an invalid vote or abstention. The voter categorically rejects all candidates from a constituency, which means he would prefer to have no representation in the Assembly or Parliament. If such voters account for even five per cent, it means they will not have a representation. Is this acceptable in a democratic country?
The NOTA option is an exercise in cynicism. Assuming none of the contestants is good enough, who will field a better candidate? If those in the fray are not suitable, what prevents the NOTA votaries from setting up their own candidates who will be acceptable to all? There is also a possibility of the uneducated exercising the NOTA option unintentionally.
Even now a large number of voters do not cast their votes but their action is attributed to “voters’ apathy.” The EC’s decision to introduce the NOTA option in the coming elections to five State Assemblies would be a test case to put at rest the expectations that many entertain about the radical changes the move is supposed to bring about.
People vote for candidates not because they are able or honest but on caste and other extraneous considerations. The pressing need, therefore, is improvement in the quality of the electorate.
The article and many legal luminaries overlook the fact that most of the rich and upper middle classes do not vote. It is so not because they dislike all candidates but because they do not feel obligated. NOTA should, ergo, be preceded by compulsory voting.