Monday, 22 April 2013

Exercising your Right to NOT Vote

This post is focused on those citizens who do not want to vote. Those who have decided to vote responsibly may please skip reading any further.

Image Courtesy: UNC
So, its that time of 5-year period when leaders, in a role reversal, knock our doors and ask us to vote for a better city, a better state and a better life. For regular voters, this is not an uncommon sight. We have been seeing in since decades and perhaps, will continue to see. These days, the candidates also penetrate the veil through various other channels like the television, radio, social networks, etc. In the US, President Obama spent a billion dollars for his recent election campaign. Elections in India, too, are a mega festival. In a 2009 report, Centre for Media Studies (CMS) said, "The April 16 general election will witness an outlay of something like 100 billion rupees (two billion dollars)".

Electoral Process in India takes at least a month for state assembly elections with the duration increasing further for the General Elections. Karnataka Assembly election will be held in a single phase on May 5 with a total of 4.18 crore voters in Karnataka. A sum of Rs 200 Crores would be spent on conducting elections by the Government. Karnataka Government has also taken up a SVEEP (Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation) plan under which it plans to spend Rs 2.5 lakhs in each constituency to create awareness on enrollment of names in the voters' list. In Bangalore, the effort is being made to increase the percentage of voters to the population from the present 62% to 65%. There are 65 lakhs voters in the city.

Now, we come to the questions we all have been wondering about. Should I vote? If yes, who should I vote for? If not, what should I do with my voter id card? These are the most generic questions we all above the age of 18 face. After all, we are clueless about what is happening in the nation. The colleges and offices keep up so busy, for whatever reason, that we never get to think about the nation. The outsourcing fever is so high in India that we have assumed that the policy making and leadership activities have been outsourced to the 500+ people in the parliament.

It is interesting to note that Right to Vote is not one of our fundamental rights. It is a constitutional right (Article 326 (in Part XV) of the Constitution). Over the last 7 years, I have been wondering if I should exercise this right and the answer that I have got is, "Yes, I should". But then, because our voting process asks us to select one out of the many candidates, I seldom get to know who I should vote for. It bothered me for sometime and I decided to look for more information. I went through the websites of the political parties and all of them made similar promises that they will give us water, power and make our city greener. I looked at the ads on TV as well as Youtube which claimed how, if elected, they can make our lives better. In the past as well, there have been similar promises. While some leaders of some parties have fulfilled those promises, most have not. Now, being a secular person, I even do not want to vote based on religion, caste or community. Even if I did, there are people of all communities in each party.

I started reading about the failure of each party. There were a plenty, a large number of them alleged by the other parties. The performance of a region, district, state or the nation has been more or less in line with the way the world has been performing in general. So, I did not find any major point/reason to vote in one party to power and vote out the others.

As I researched further, I found this interesting Rule 49-O in The Conduct of Elections Rules of India. It says, "If an elector decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark." However, recording such data easily violates the secrecy of the ballot. Before the Electronic voting machine (EVM) were in use, the easiest way to do this would be to stamp on multiple candidate names and thus, giving a null vote, by invalidating the vote. There is even more information about 49-O on the net but this was sufficient.

An argument in favor of provision of neutral voting is that it ensures the individual's freedom to choose whether or not to vote. Russia allows voters to vote "against all" candidates. It has been reported that activist Anna Hazare supports the 'Right Not To Vote'.

Now, I see that some of you might have an answer for the dilemma. We consider all the parties and leaders as capable as the other. Some of us do not think that any one person can make a difference, so different from the other. So, we do not want to vote for one of these. We want to vote for all of them. Of course, there are many others who have perceptions and in some cases reasons, to vote for one leader. Let such people decide who should be the leader.

But then, we MUST vote. We must exercise our right by voting for all (or none) by going to the polling booth and ensuring that our vote is counted. Of course, the easier way to do it is to lie down at home but the objective here is to exercise your right to say, "Look, I am fine with all the leaders and all the parties" because sitting back at home would mean, "I am not fine with these guys". When you are not fine with these guys, it would be very important to define the guys with who you are fine.

This May 5, as Karnataka enters the elections day, lets all ensure that we vote, we vote for one person of our choice or we vote for all of them standing out for our cause. This May 5, lets ensure that Karnataka sets an example for the world through a large voter turnout. This May 5, don't sit back at home, not because you can come out and run the nation, because you have a responsibility. This May 5, lets get together to say whatever we have to say by voting rather than cribbing the next 5 years. This May 5, ensure that your name on the voter list is ticked and your finger nail is inked.

Jai Hind, Jai Karnataka!


  1. BJP supporters are sitting on cybermedia and declaring Modi as PM are not aware with the ground level realities across the country... they will recieve first shock on the day of Karnataka result

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