The Election Commission Tuesday termed the Gujarat government’s move
to make voting compulsory in local body elections as “full of
difficulties” even as the issue has evoked a larger national debate
in the country.
“Such proposals had come up for discussion in the commission on many
occasions earlier. For India, it is full of difficulties,” Election
Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi told reporters here Tuesday when asked to
comment on the issue.
Gujarat assembly Saturday passed a bill making voting compulsory in
elections to all local bodies in the state, which Chief Minister
Narendra Modi termed a “historic move to strengthen democracy”.
Quraishi said: “We consider that democracy and compulsion do not go
hand in hand.”
said the commission was concerned that 40 percent of the 714 million
voters in the country does not vote. “It is a a matter of concern to
the Commission,” he said.
Quraishi, however, said the best way to address the problem was to
educate the voters.
voter education could be a better option to enthuse them. The
commission is engaged in roping in youth, particularly college and
school students, to enhance voter awareness.”
Monday, Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla had also said there
were difficulties in making voting compulsory in the country due to
the huge size of the electorate.
While the Congress and Left parties have opposed the Gujarat
government’s move, it has got strong support from Rashtriya Janata
Dal (JDU) chief and former railway minister Lalu Prasad.
Favouring the move, Lalu Prasad has said that mandatory voting was
needed to tackle falling voter turnout not just in municipal polls
but also in parliamentary elections.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is the ruling party in Gujarat,
welcomed the move, saying that national discussion should be
conducted on replicating the state’s model.
Describing the move as “innovative and useful”, senior BJP leader M.
Venkaiah Naidu said the modalities of experimenting with it in other
states should be discussed.
According to the new bill, all registered voters in Gujarat will be
required to vote. Those absent will be asked to submit a valid
reason with proof within a month.
bill empowers the election officer to declare people who do not vote
as defaulter voters. They shall have an opportunity to present their
case within a month.
Exemption will be granted on account of illness, absence from the
country or the state on the polling day and for any other reason
prescribed by the state.