Monday, March 23, 2009

Negative Vote Positive Message

The forthcoming 15th Indian parliament elections will star 714 million voters, 17 million of whom are in the age group 18-35 years. When we compare these figures with those of the 1st parliament elections, which had 176 million voters, it could be said that the things have got bigger; but have they got better ?

Over the years, single party governments have been replaced by the multi-party or coalition governments, both at the States and the Centre. The ideology has been replaced by the unprincipled opportunism. Today's coalition looks like a heterogeneous condominium of political parties, widely differing in ideologies, desperately sticking to power. This is revealed by the fact that in the last parliament there were 125 MPs, i.e. 25% of the House, facing criminal charges, including rape and murder. No wonder we see the officials and the local politicians following the footsteps of their bosses in power. What should a voter do if he finds all the candidates equally undesirable ?

As per the provisions of the rule 49-O, stated in the 'The Conduct of Elections Rules', 1961, a person can go to the polling booth, confirm his identity, get his finger marked and convey the presiding election officer that he does not want to vote anyone. Although the person’s right not to vote would be recognised in the total vote counting process, in no case would there be a re-poll. As of now, what rule 49-O will do is to register the person’s signature or thumbprint. This would also require the voter to reveal their identity, which goes against the system of secret ballot. Further, even if 49-O votes are more than the winning candidates’ votes, it would not negate the result. There is no judgment as yet on the implications of 49-O towards the upcoming elections and the barring of candidates from a re-poll.

There is a need to take a positive cognisance of the negative vote. This is an effective way to cleanse the politics. All nation-loving and the democracy-loving citizens and even the MPs should take a note and bring in the electoral reform to that effect

The new Election Commissioner V. S. Sampath, rightly advocated the elector's right not to vote. However that would have to be given shape through a legislation.

At present a person can write down on a piece of paper and give it to polling booth officials that he is not interested in voting. This violates the principle of secret voting. In order to provide this facility on EVM (Electronic Voting Machine), a separate law is required.

The legislation, if properly drafted, will mark a watershed in the electoral reforms. If the number of such negative votes is more than the votes polled by the individual candidates, the election may be canceled.

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Independent Professional: Experienced educator and management consultant for engineering educational institutions, researcher, trainer, technical consultant on sustainable technologies, related to cement manufacturing and characterisation, using industrial and agricultural wastes in cement and concrete, durability of concrete and fuel cell power.