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?
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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?”