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Look for NOTA – 'None of the Above' option on your EVMs
Sunday March 9, 2014 10:36 PM, Syed Ali Mujtaba, ummid.com

In the coming elections, when you go to vote and if you feel that none of the candidates are worth for representing you, then there is no need to quit voting, just vote 'NOTA' or None Of The Above' and show your displeasure. 'NOTA' option now will figure in the upcoming election at the end of the list of candidates in the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the ballot papers.

'NOTA' is a powerful weapon now available to the people of India to exercise their electoral franchise. It ensures the secrecy to the voters and they can vote against all candidates without any fear.

This option will reduce the alienation of voters who usually don't come to vote as they are not satisfied with the candidates. They can vote NOTA and thereby sending a strong message to the political parties to field better candidates who are worthy of their trust.

Now with the NOTA option available, people may come out in large numbers to vote, especially those who don't come to vote as they don't like any candidates. This will surely help in increasing the percentage of the voters in the elections. It will also help in choosing right the candidate having clean image.

Now due to the fear of 'NOTA,' political parties will be forced to field candidates who do not have any criminal or corrupt image. The fear of NOTA would also force the political parties to maintain their image all through the time and not during the elections only. It is suggested that NOTA will give credibility to the election and help developing a better political culture in India.

NOTA would also strengthen freedom of speech and expression that is our fundamental right. Earlier people had no such option and cannot express themselves but now they can freely reject the candidate in complete privacy of secret ballot. The NOTA opens the door for freedom of expression and is a step closer to our representative democracy.

India is not the first country to have such a system. It is already being followed in over 13 other countries. Their experience suggests that it has triggered in shaping a healthy democratic culture there. The NOTA connects the people closer to the political system and maintains the transparency and integrity of the electoral process as well.

In India, the Election Commission had moved the law ministry in 2001 for the introduction of NOTA option in the EVMs. But the government took no initiative and kept this issue in cold storage. Then a case was put up in the Supreme Court for its hearing in 2009. In 2013, the Supreme Court gave the verdict asking the Election Commission to include NOTA option in the EVMs.

The NOTA is quite different from the earlier practice of blank vote that was considered as invalid vote. The votes under NOTA are counted and are treated as valid votes.

The NOTA is different from 'right to reject.' In case if NOTA gets more than 50 percent of votes, still the candidate with less number of votes can win the election under first pass the post system. This means even if a candidate gets less than the majority votes, he can end up as a winner. This is the biggest shortcoming of the NOTA. It can hand over victory to the candidate who is not favored by the electorates.

So there is a need to amend certain electoral provisions in our constitution under the representation of people Act - 1951 to overcome such anomalies. Efforts should also be made that in case of majority of votes polled are NOTA, then fresh election should be called for, and all those candidates contesting earlier should disallowed to re-contest.

Although this may increase the financial burden on the people, it will ensure better representation because in the re-election fresh set of candidates will be fielded.

If the Election Commission can ensure the proper implementation of NOTA, it is very much beneficial to the people of this country. Such provisions initiate new democratic culture and empower the people in the country. It will also attract people with clean image to the democratic process and make election more participatory. It will certainly bring transparency in the electoral process and strengthen our democracy.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com





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