A discourse on NOTA for changing Indian dirty politics

Dr Arambam Birajit *

NOTA - Vote icon :: Wikipedia/Lasse Havelund
Pix - Wikipedia/Lasse Havelund

Instead of absolute electoral reforms, quite a number of partial modifications have been carried out till today in different phases of time to bring a quality politics in India. "None Of The Above" popularly known as NOTA is also one of the modifications. As per ruling of Supreme Court on the 27th Sept 2013, NOTA was first introduced in the assembly election of five states i.e. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, M.P., Mizoram and Rajasthan.

In fact, this option is not a new brand of its kind in the electoral scenario of India and abroad. Before introducing the NOTA, under section 49(O) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 a voter could enter his/her electoral serial No. in form 17A and cast a negative vote. The Presiding Officer would, then, put a remark in the form and get it signed by the voter.

This was done only to prevent fraud and misuse of votes. This section 49(O) stood annulled after the Supreme Court declared the NOTA provision. The previous provision of negative voting could not protect the right of "Secret Voting". Whereas, today's NOTA protects that right.

NOTA is known in different names in different countries like Spain, Columbia, Greece as "White Vote" and in Ukraine as "Against All". In the history of Representative Democracy this option was first introduced in the state of Nevada, USA in 1978. Some criticize that people, who never involve in any social activities and blame everyone, will vote for NOTA by branding the inseparable politics to be an untouchable entity.

Any way, it may be another logic but the situation, nowadays, has come that there is no place in politics for ethically right doers. Therefore, the purpose of NOTA has, now, become more and more clear.

The continuing downfall plight of politics due to nepotism, corruption and criminalization among the politicians, people look at them with intense hatred. This is the sole reason for giving birth to the NOTA in India that gives the "Right to Vote" for those citizens who do not have any option due to unwanted candidates.

Though, it is highly needed to revisit as to how far this NOTA option addresses the frustrated people. The value of votes of all; high and low, caste and creed is equally treated. Whereas, the NOTA is as of now treated as invalid vote and has no value of "Right to Reject". Just it is merely an instrument of protest. Suppose, out of 100 voters 99 vote for NOTA and the candidate getting only one valid vote will be declared as winner.

The meaning, according to the present existing nature of the NOTA, is that opinion can be expressed but that will not be taken care at any cost. In fact, the principle of NOTA is also based on that consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election just as they can by voting "No" on ballot question.

If the right, the opinion is prejudicially neglected in the electoral democracy, it is obviously indicated that the prevailing system is not working in its true sense. Not only in NOTA but even in the "First Past the Post" system (FPTP) also the votes given to the looser candidates are being wasted.

In this connection, people more prefer the scientific Proportional Representation system (PR) in which no vote gets wasted. Therefore, either NOTA vote or Normal vote of everyone, in a sense, should have something impact in the outcome. The only system which can retain the value of everyone's vote (both NOTA and Normal vote) is "Mix Member Proportional Representation" system (MMPR).

Even though, today's NOTA is necessarily needed to rectify its mechanism. A PIL has already been filed in Madras High Court seeking the full right to reject in place of NOTA. Mostly, Nexalite affected areas are higher in NOTA vote. Bihar state assembly election in 2015 saw 2.49% of NOTA vote which, so far, remains the highest NOTA vote polled in any state assembly election.

Hope that, NOTA vote polled percentage will surely more increase than over and above the existing rate only as and when it possesses some values. Whereas, the raising of NOTA vote is not a symptom of healthy democracy but the provision and campaigning on NOTA vote should be taken as an eradication movement to prevent the transforming of Politics into "Pollutics" by corruption and criminal activities.

This will lead to a drastic systematic change in polls and all the political parties will be forced to project their clean candidates. Owing to the healthy electoral participation, the turnout of voters will be higher and as a follow up result, the proxy vote will be unquestionably minimized.

Keeping this view, some personal proposals are being highlighted through this esteemed daily. That, if the number of NOTA vote is more than that of the winner candidate, the provision of full right to reject can be applied and repoll can be arranged among the fresh candidates.

This situation may not be happened frequently but the system should be there to use as and when needed. The second proposal is the provision of Right to Recall. Recently, regarding the right to recall, Mr. Varun Gandhi, M.P. from Sultanpur constituency of U.P. has moved a private member Bill in the Lok Sabha for non-performing M.P.s and M.L.A.s.

But the performance assessment of an M.P. or M.L.A is somewhat difficult and the matter has not been still taken up for discussion in the public domain or among the political parties. On other hand, assessment for right to recall through NOTA vote will be an easy, self explanatory calculation. For instance, the number of vote secured by a winner candidate can be divided by 5(five) as an electoral term is of 5 years.

The quotient will be considered as one year, and further time period i.e. half, quarter, month and so on can be definitely calculated from the above quotient. If the number of NOTA vote amounts to one year or more, the amount of time will be deducted from the 5 years tenure of the winner candidate. Then, the winner candidate will hold office for the remaining time period only.

After that, Bye election for a new verdict can be held to complete 5 years tenure of an electoral term. And another case may also be considered that if the equivalent time is less than one year, the second winner i.e. the second preference of the concerned constituency can be given a chance to be a representative for the remaining time period or a harden / cut off line may be imposed to prevent unnecessary change of representative for the negligible short time period.

For legalization of all these proposals, a discourse of all sections of society i.e. political leaders, experts, intellectuals and interested individuals is highly needed. If so, a valid vote of NOTA having the power of reject value and recall value will provide an immense opportunity to resolve the problems of unwanted candidates of dirty politics.

* Dr Arambam Birajit wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on June 06, 2017.

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