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The Big Picture – Can NOTA option impact candidate selection?


The Supreme Court in October 2013 had asked the Election Commission to provide NOTA option in the EVMs. The judgement was a result of petitions which had opposed the system of the voter having to write in a slip of paper that he is willing to exercise the option of not voting for any candidate which was not kept secret. The SC upheld the contention of petitions and said that it was against the constitution. This was an important step towards electoral reforms. It also has raised hopes of systemic changes to improve the entire electoral process.

Previously, under the provisions of Section 49(O) of the Representation of People Act, a voter who after coming to a polling booth does not want to cast his vote, had to inform the presiding officer of his intention not to vote, who in turn would make an entry in the relevant rule book after taking the signature of the said elector.

This is considered as a landmark judgement as it allows people to express their dissatisfaction. The exercise of this option does not have any legal consequence, yet it is an important first step towards a full right to reject.  This move would have marginal yet positive impact on voter turnouts. This move is also expected to quantify voter’s disenchantment and it may lead to more electoral reforms. The EVMs had previously taken the right to cast an invalid vote.

It is also true that the political parties would not do away with the winning candidates even if some people do not like the contesting candidate. It is hard to overlook the winnability factor.  Political parties now are expected to indulge in substantial amount of due diligence. With the concept of negative voting, the voters who are dissatisfied with the candidates in the fray would turn up in large number to express their opinion which would put unscrupulous elements and impersonators out of the polls.

For democracy to survive, it is essential that the best available men should be chosen for proper governance of the country. This can be best achieved through men of high moral and ethical values who win the elections on a positive vote. Thus the NOTA option would indeed compel political parties to nominate sound candidates. Giving the voter a right not to vote for any candidate, while protecting his right of secrecy is extremely important in a democracy. Such an option gives the voter the right to express his disapproval of the kind of candidates being put up by the parties. Gradually, there will be a systemic change and the parties will be forced to accept the will of the people and field candidates who are known for their integrity.