Why You Must Press The NOTA Button
None Of The Above or NOTA is the new button going to be fixed on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the first time during the incoming elections in the 5 Indian states of Delhi, MP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram in Nov-Dec, 2013. It follows the order of the Supreme Court dated 27th September, 2013 in which the court had directed the Election Commission of India to make provision for the voters in the election to have an option of not voting for any of the given candidates. Thus, it introduced the concept of None of the Above (NOTA) in the electioneering process of India. This is a huge victory for the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the NGO that had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court long back and had been fighting for the cause since then.
NOTA simply means that the voter will be at liberty to go to the polling booth, to reject all the candidates fighting the election in his constituency and to get officially registered for that. The EVM will come with a button saying ‘none of the above’ and people not willing to vote for any of the contestants may press the button and get their vote registered. Their vote will be counted in the official counting for results. This way, the election commission has given reason to the people to come out of their house and to cast their votes which they didn’t do earlier on the pretext of not liking the candidates in the fray. Thus, the new system would help the process of electioneering become more participatory.
The people have now been given the authority to virtually reject a candidate. It will go a long way in forcing the political parties to put up good candidates at the place of those with criminal or shady backgrounds whom the political parties used to field keeping in view of their winnability. Well, you may ask will this really happen? Will the political parties fall in line so easily resisting the temptation of fielding the candidates with better winning prospects, irrespective of their past misdeeds? Well, not in the immediate future but would eventually do.
It’s true that NOTA is not the ‘right to reject’; by exercising the option to reject all the candidates we’re not blocking their chances of victory nor we’re going to harm them in any way. The candidate getting the highest percentage of votes among the contestants, as per the first past the poll system, will easily sail through irrespective of actual number of votes he gets. Even if the NOTA option gets more percentage of votes than the winning candidate, the electioneering is not null and void. The constituency will get its representative no matter how unacceptable he is to the majority of the electorate. Of course, the desired effect can happen when we get the right to reject a candidate. If the NOTA option gets more vote than those polled by the winning candidate, the election should be countermanded as happened in the Soviet Union in 1991 when the Soviet version of NOTA led to new round of elections with new candidates in 200 constituencies in the 1500-member legislature, called Congress of Peoples’ Deputies. Only then the political parties would fear NOTA and only then they will be compelled to field candidates with cleaner images.
There are many who doubt the efficacy of NOTA. They believe, in its present form NOTA is nothing but simply a means to vent one’s anger, dissatisfaction, frustration and disenchantment. It’s just a negative vote which may enable the people to stay away from electing a candidate whom they may treat to be unfit. But, we mustn’t forget that it’s going to be the most effective means to tell the political class what the electorate thinks about the candidates.
NOTA is a most important step in the direction of getting the ‘right to reject’ and the more formidable option of ‘right to recall’. If NOTA option kept on winning majority votes, soon there will be clamour to reject the candidate getting lesser number of electoral votes. It will make a positive environment in the nation to embark upon radical electoral reforms. In other words, after NOTA the political climate is not going to remain the same.
That’s why you must exercise the NOTA option, if you ever so feel.
Krishna Kumar @ ThoughtPourri