Notabhai! નોટભાઈ તમે કોણ છો?

How far NOTA will help?


નોટભાઈ તમે કોણ છો? This is written in the language Gujarati! In English, it means Notabhai who are you? I have chosen this title as  recent elections in Gujarat brought out this issue forward! Bhai in Gujarati is Brother! I do not write about political stuff as I do not understand many things from that arena. But this is about a procedure in our elections and its significance. What is NOTA? The Supreme Court, in September last year, upheld the right of voters to reject all candidates contesting the elections, saying it would go a long way in cleansing the political system of the country. The apex court directed the Election Commission to have an option of ‘None of The Above’ (NOTA) on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers in a major electoral reform.


This NOTA facility was available even before Electronic NOTA option. But in that case an individual was required to meet the polling officer, make entry in a register, fill up a form saying that you want to select option “None of the above”! Why people want the NOTA option? This indicates, that the voter finds none of the candidates are worth his vote.

In the recent Gujarat election, it was observed that besides three political parties NOTA option was fourth in the list based on the number of votes captured. That is not a small number, in fact it is a sizable number. In % it was about 2% total valid votes! What is the meaning of this option?

The NOTA option on EVMs has no electoral value. Even if the maximum number of votes cast is for NOTA, the candidate getting the most of the remaining votes would be declared winner. But then why have NOTA when it has no electoral value? The SC said, negative voting would even encourage people who are not satisfied with any of the candidates to turn up to express their opinion and reject all contestants.

It further said that negative voting will lead to a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates. If the right to vote is a statutory right, then the right to reject a candidate is a fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution.

This momentous decision will go a long way for any democracy! There is no doubt that India is the largest running and thriving democracy. We have been stealing thunder under all the advanced countries in the world, the way we conduct the elections in India. For the most technically advanced country USA, there have been nightmares about voting, counting and in its systems. It seems Florida specializes in them. There have been fiascos in 2000, 2006 and 2012! In one election Supreme court had to intervene and order the recounting to be stopped. Somebody had jokingly said, “Checkup if the counters can count between 0 to 100!” Or was it a serious statement?

You may find this article interesting.


Politics all over the world has been dirty line of work; you are always under scrutiny. But still the politicians have the penchant for foot in the mouth disease! From bribery, secret funds or not so secret love lives, these guys are capable of doing everything! The other day I read during the discussion on “Me Too!” campaign about sexual harassment, a comment was made that in USA if you are lucky to survive sex scandals, you are likely to become the President of USA.

The population world over is fed up of type of people who take part in politics. When all candidates in a constituency “qualify” now we have an option of NOTA! This is a sign of maturing population who may lodge protest by selecting to press NOTA option. Though NOTA vote has no value, it may so happen that without NOTA, candidate A could have won instead of B! Hopefully this will have effect on political parties. They may think twice before forcing certain candidates on populace. Ultimately trying to remain on the winning side is the name of the game! Remaining in opposition, keeps these folks in wilderness of the power game, with “huge loss in income”!

Are the people really serious about offering to serve the nation? Are they so much driven that they are very keen to uplift the society? In India at least, such statements will be a big joke. The dynastic approach in politics indicates otherwise and politicians are here just to loot the system. At least most of them are. If you read about the wealth amassed by such people in a short duration, it is simply shocking. When Income Tax department takes action, there is a hue & cry about political vendetta!

Will NOTA improve the system? It is a positive step in the right direction. There has been discussion of banning candidates depending on punishments meted out to candidates by court of law. But the law itself is such a maze, that we have known of candidates who fought elections from jail! What if one has made an appeal against the punishment? What if one has completed its jail terms? There are always good and bad sides in any democracy. Mind you the other option of dictatorship is simply not on. So, let us hope that we vote in an election in such a way using NOTA, that so called popular candidates are beaten by not so famous candidates!

I will share one small anecdote. Times of India’s correspondent Chidanand Rajghatta from Washington D C, was invited to speak about Indian Election system. Audience was amazed when he shared the details. He was asked, “What can America do to improve its systems?” He smiled and said, ” Please sub contract your elections to India?”

India 2020 or 1820?

I am really not sure if our society is in 1820 or 2020!


Pramod somehow caught hold of Genie, managed to make Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “Pramod, you always look positive and gung ho about Bharat desh; but you seem a bit perturbed after you had a chat with your friend, Vijay,  who came back from China visit, today?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to the question asked.

As usual, Genie kept on talking. Genie said, “I know that Vijay must have shared with you the advances made by China in all fields.” 35 to 40 years back Chinese started a revolution in their lives, overcoming the setbacks from Mao regime. Ok, I saw you smirk and I know what you are going to say. They have dictatorship that is why they can do whatever they want! Give 30 % discount to “No Democracy” but still how far ahead are they? Look at their new cities, look at their production volumes? In car production they have gone way ahead of the US also! So many international companies get their products manufactured in China for different reasons. Cost, productivity and quality! When they get these benefits, it is obvious that people will queue up to get things manufactured in China. Chinese think out of the box. They have a major manufacturing set up in north west China. Shipping products from there to harbours on the east coast, putting them in containers and sending them to Europe by ship, was 45 days cycle. They got the rail tracks ready in north west China to connect to Russian train system and now they ship the products by train to Europe in 15 days!

Pramod, you look gloomy. I know that you are not sure if we in India live in 1820 in mind, though we will be reaching 2020 in a couple of years! Yes, we are doing some great things like ISRO but you fail to understand why can’t we follow simple things like crossing roads on zebra crossings; sometimes it looks as if cattle is moving in the field in random direction but these are roads in cities and these are humans and not cattle! It is no rocket science, oh but we do very well in Rocket Science! We run excellent Metro Services in many cities but what happens on local trains and especially long-distance trains? We have dirty bedsheets in sleeper coaches, unclean toilets and so on. We are doing good in IT field and looks like we will go up the value chain going into AI and deep learning. But we can’t find solution to smog in Northern India. The smog levels reached are ten times the normal value, but we are collectively sleeping! Pramod, I know Beijing also faces similar problem, but they are at least trying to do something about it and not sleeping over it!

In our Metro ecosystem behavior of Indians is very disciplined and the system remains very clean all the time! Just outside the system we are back to “Old Dilli” ways. Old Dilli is a thought process. चलता है is our motto! This means whatever rubbish is done we accept it with an attitude, “It’s ok! चलता है.” Unless we come out of this attitude we will remain in 1820! We have Urinals on expressways just after every toll station. But people will relieve themselves on the wall of the Urinal but from outside. Local governments ear mark zones for hawkers, but we will start hawking where ever it is suitable to us. On footpaths, railway foot bridges! But with चलता है attitude we regularly buy stuff from these hawkers and accept situation as if we are still in 1820! Local Governments make anti encroachments drives, within a couple of hours or days, hawkers occupy the same space and it is business as usual. We do not have time to breathe because of busy life but we will spend hours together to follow some age-old traditions under the garb of religion.

Pramod, what is the solution to this? How do you think Indians can be physically as well as mentally be in 2020? Do you at least  see some progress in that direction! Sri Lankan cricket team captain made a statement that their teams performance is not up to the mark because of some “Spirits” are working against them! Are you sure Pramod that these things are not discussed in Indian Cricket team meetings? At least from what is written in newspaper, Indian skipper is a 2020 guy who totally believes in training, discipline, performance and positive attitude! This probably helps Indian team to open the bottle of “Spirit”, Champagne, after most of the matches, these days!

Pramod, I want your reply on this, as I know you have strong views! I also know that your friend Vijay is like you! He also is in gloom after visits to other countries  but is a similarly positive guy like you and wants to work harder again! Pramod tried his best not to talk but Genie hustled him again with the same questions! Pramod just could not keep quiet. He said, “Genie, look at the positive side. All this discussion shows us that there is so much to do! For next many many years, we all have lots of work to do! I am sure we will do it, the way we are doing with ISRO, Metros, IT “

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp, Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. “Pramod my gut feeling tells me that most work we will be required do will be on Indian Mentality!”


My voting rights were on hold, almost…..

I and Jaya have been voting for last 45 years. This morning we got our morning stuff out of the way quickly and reached the voting station just at the starting time, 7.30 am! Of course we did not go in the finery to celebrate the dance of democracy, but enthusiasm had not diminished in 45 years. The election was for Pune Municipal Corporation and was a local one.

There were many web sites where one could search details like name, polling booths and so on, but both our names were missing from all lists. We tried different spellings but nothing worked. This was a couple of days back. We assumed that our names were “struck off”! Then suddenly I received an SMS which included details about Jaya and my brother Shrikant, who lives in the US! This increased our hopes and I thought maybe my name is also there somewhere.

Surprisingly this time, arrangement for locating ones name and polling booth were quite rudimentary. Normally, we would get detailed slips on the day before voting from different political parties. We just needed to show the slips to locate the booth. But this year there were no slips! I thought India has gone up the value chain, no paper slips only SMS’s and online search. I somehow had an inkling that my name may be missing after all. We managed to locate our booth and went inside. There was nobody with laptops, searching etc. We presumed that our names would be in the same booth. And Lo! Jaya’s name was there and mine was not found. We came out after Jaya voted and went to a Govt official who had a list of names separated alphabetically. We could not find my name. The beauty is that names of ALL our neighbours from the Condo were seen only my name was not found.

While driving back home, I felt sad and it was getting converted into a “Pall of Gloom”! How can this happen? All these years I have voted, there is no change in our official address, there was no change in anything. How can my name suddenly vanish? Human nature is such that cancer, heart attack, accidents and “name vanishing from voter’s list” happen to someone else to be read in the newspaper! I just could not believe that it happened to me! I went home and later went to my office. Luckily my polling center is very close to my office. When we discussed my missing name in the office, everybody sympathized but sympathies don’t bring the name back in the voter’s list. Then my man Friday Pankaj took all the details from me and said, “Don’t worry! I will recheck.” In half an hour he came back with my details. My name was in another booth. There were six booths with approximately 800 people to vote at each booth. But Pankaj met one of the candidates and he made sure that my name was properly checked, manually and successfully! Was I happy!

Now thoughts come to my mind, why do these things happen? Why simple search on websites is not efficient? How can names actually get deleted? Or do they really get deleted? My perseverance helped me locating the name. But all people may not be that keen. If the name is not found, people just let go, in fact I also let go but Pankaj helped me vote, which is my basic democratic right! From work point of view creating and updating the lists is not rocket science but we read stories of a lot of errors. Why it cannot be stopped? That my name was not found on any search sites indicates that their data is not properly updated or their search criteria are wrong! Along with improving searching, volunteers should also be sitting with Laptops on the Election Day to make life easy for people! But for that to happen, data must be proper. Another thing that could be done is the vendors who process the data for Govt agencies should be penalized if names go missing. Probably they are given medals today! Financial punishment is a great way of increasing efficiency and correctness! May be they should also be offered bonuses, for zero errors!

One thing I have learnt today, if your name is not there don’t give up! Make an effort, maybe the name is misplaced and not deleted. Voting is our basic right, we don’t know how lucky we are that we live in a democracy! Check about life in non-democratic countries! We only look at chaos in India but we must also start looking at the vibrancy of democracy seen everywhere. We may not like the candidates in our area, we may not like the politicians but we must not forget the power of democracy! Democracy allows Modi to become Prime Minister and it also allow Trump to become President! Long live democracy!