India: My vote, Does it really matter?
Wooing the allies is the buzz of the hour as Five States voted in the last phase of the central government elections for India on the 13th of May, bringing an end to what is known to be the most closely contested elections so far. Exit Polls by most Indian News channels suggest a BJP ally government to replace the existing Congress party at the centre. Some media experts however do not rule out the opposite leaving more space for discussion. But this post has got more to do with my thoughts about the section 49(O) of the Indian constitution a.k.a ‘No Vote’.
Come May 16 and one may see suitcases being exchanged between parties across all states of India, says a friend. The heavier the suitcase, the more support the party will get, he adds. I do not completely agree. Yes, it’s a part but not the only part. What matters more is the votes we have casted!
Voter turnout was registered at 60 percent as against an overall 58.2 percent in the previous elections, an increase of a meager 1.8 percent. A failure and a slap on the face of all voting campaigns carried out by various news channels and corporates across India. One was hoping to see a significant rise in the voter turnout this election as the youth who are known to be the faces of India’s tomorrow failed to register their only right, the right to vote. My friend, a critic by all means, no matter which party made it to the centre, stood in queue in the mid afternoon heat to excise his right to vote and returned inked on his finger, but without casting a vote.
He, like the many others, decided to register a ‘No vote’, Section 49(O) of the Indian Constitution which allows a voter, a citizen of India, who is above the age of 18, to register a vote that is not in favor of any party. If there are a majority of votes registered under this section, the president can call for a re-election or the constituency is then controlled by the President of India and the Indian Army. Before the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM’s) were introduced as a part of the electoral process, there were forms that voters could fill to register a ‘No Vote’. Introduction of EVM’s saw strong resistance from the MP’s for having a similar ‘No Vote’ button. The rule was not passed, and the EVM’s missed the popular yet less used button. However the section 49(O) remained intact.
A voter can however now request a ”No Vote’ form , which my friend was denied at the electoral booth after sweating out for almost 15 mins in the queue. Also in the queue were some of his family members who protested against the no availability. The problem was quickly resolved as the family decided not to vote and they embarked on the quarter mile walk back home.
My friend and his family members however got their names ticked, signed the voters form and got their fingers inked and left without registering a vote. It is only now they realize that some person at the booth may well have registered vote on their name’s.
Many others who were denied forms wrote letters headed to the election commissioner demanding the forms, not registering their votes. The letters were handed to the presiding officer at the booth, unaware of whether the officer would actually send the letters to the concerned department. A total of over 10k votes were registered ‘No votes’ in the district of Chennai alone by means of letters.
I carried this discussion forward with a group of friends. Needless to say, no vote allows a voter to register a protest vote against any party, a vote that will send a message to these parties to keep the promises they made. No Vote would however be meaningful if a majority of people across the state register the same, and since these elections were across India we are talking of over 50 million ‘No votes’.
With a Voter turn out of only 60 percent, It sounds almost next to impossible. Mutiny is something that we can gain from sticking together which we lack on a big scale. My friend returned without voting, yet got his finger inked, which means he allowed somebody else to vote on his name. The remaining votes of people who didn’t turn up would have been casted courtesy the party workers. What the hell! Does it require superior thinking to understand the basic thing?
Anyways, coming back to 49(O).. It’s a section to allow people to choose what they want to do, and not what the MP’s wanted them to do.. 49(O) allows a freedom of choice.. A choice that if a billion people make may change the way things operate in our country. “I don’t trust any politician or party, I want an Army rule!” said a friend, somebody who has not been at an army camp for a single day. I have been to one and know what the experience is like.
I was slapped the very first day for falling out of line while registering our names.We were denied food for turning up 2 mins past the dinner bell. A 10 hour ‘attention’ outside the chief officer’s room during the night for indiscipline, continuing the drill while the others rested during afternoons. Do we actually want to be in such place? Try breaking the signal in an army rule and see yourself running daily to work. Are we not happy with what’s happening around us? We are, and even when some criminals sit in the parliament.
I registered a valid vote to an XYZ party, which people close to me would know. I was for once tempted to register a No Vote, but the conscious inside me wanted me to turn into a responsible citizen and vote legitimately. What’s the point of a ‘No Vote’ when you know that you are never going to get a majority? What’s the point about getting fingers inked and yet not voting? for that matter not voting at all? even when you know that your vote can be misused.. I personally feel that by voting for parties that have already declared allies and are close to forming the government is a responsible decision. Simply because, they have more chances of winning majority without suitcases being exchanged, in a way allowing bring down corruption.
All one has to do is choose one amongst the two or three largest allies that have a lower criminal record and promise bringing about development. A no vote in this context wouldn’t make any sense, fighting for it at an electoral booth – NONSENSE. Why not vote for the least probable candidate instead?
Of course there is no party in this country that has a clear criminal record, It’s the matter of choosing the better amongst the worst. Anyways, elections are over and there is no pint even discussing voting strategies. All eyes will be glued on television to witness the results of the biggest and the most closely contested elections in India thus far. Hope we see a more development inclined and a more stable government this time.