With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections underway, there is quite a natural buzz amongst the populace. Akin to festivals wherein even the irreligious tend to fall prey to the celebrations, the elections are an exuberant period where the apolitical formulate opinions as well. This is when a particular question that had been gaining momentum finally comes to a point where it can no longer be avoided – “Who should you vote for?”
The electorate can be broadly divided into three categories of people – the tolerant, the intolerant, and the indifferent. Defining very generally, the tolerant comprise of those people who are forgiving, either of the current party in power despite their tyranny, or of the opposition which had once been in power, despite their inconsistencies. The intolerant, on the other hand, represent a section of people who are tired of the same old repressive politics that has not quite changed ever since India was declared independent. The third class of people happen to be the ones who are quite unstirred by the state of affairs.
If we analyse these voters, it should not be very hard to gauge the fact that the tolerant populace will cast a definitive vote. They will choose a candidate and give a particular political party a chance to prove their worth. The intolerant, however, might be hostile towards the current ruling party and would want to give the opposition, or any other deserving candidate a chance. However, there is also a possibility that they might not find any particular candidate to be deserving at all. The indifferent ones are the vulnerable ones who might merely go with the flow, in the direction of the projected victory and casting their vote blindly, if they do turn up to vote at all that is.
Article 326 of the Indian Constitution grants universal adult suffrage, and it is a right that must be exercised by everyone who is eligible. It is important for the state to thereby ensure that no eligible voter ever feels the need not to vote. It is therefore important to address the issue of “What should you do if you do not find anyone eligible at all?”
The answer to the above question is an option granted to every voter – None of The Above. It ensures that a voter exercises his/her voting rights, and provides a medium to express the dissatisfaction. The biggest fallacy of this option, however, happens to be that even if NOTA happens to poll the highest number of votes, the candidate securing the maximum votes irrespective of NOTA would still win from the particular constituency. So why should one go for NOTA at all, and are there any benefits?
For starters, as mentioned before, each one of us must exercise our right to vote, even if we face a lack of options. Simply because we have an option for when we don’t. It is perfectly possible for us to not have our ideologies matching with that of the ruling party, while not wanting the opposition back in power because we haven’t forgotten in these 5 years. It is perfectly possible for us to not like the candidates contesting from our constituency even if our ideologies align with that of particular political parties, for they might not be educated, might be having criminal records, or might just be people having quite a questionable character.
Secondly, it is a peaceful way of expressing dissent. There have been several instances in past elections (In Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) where the number of votes polled by NOTA was much more than the victory margin. This goes to show how the results could have easily tilted in the opposite direction had all the NOTA voters had rooted for the person who polled the second highest number of votes. Although NOTA hasn’t yet garnered enough votes to have received the maximum in a constituency, current statistics still show how it could have significantly changed the course in certain areas. Clearly goes to show that people are not satisfied and awareness has risen to an extent where they’ve implicitly tried to demand a change in the state of affairs.
NOTA is not just an option. It is a button that can trigger a potential revolution. A revolution for cleansing the political system of our country. A revolution demanding the need for new promising faces and efficient people. A revolution calling for the end of criminals and corrupt individuals representing our localities, our states and our nation. It’s a means of getting out of the battle between the fragile lotus and the withering hand, and introducing reform.
And let us face it. All of the above factors plague our country, and concentrate the power in the hands of a few seasoned tyrants who have been in the game for way too long, manipulating people and misusing their power.
But how will this be possible? Only when the option manages to gather enough votes to trigger the demand for more. The moment NOTA starts to accumulate the maximum number of votes in several constituencies will there be a demand for re-elections. The provision may not exist now, but on a large scale, there will be people who will move the top courts over this issue. Once the provision is made, political parties will be forced to pitch effective candidates to match the needs of the people. Done on a large scale, this will lead to the emergence of new political parties and faces, and will eventually encourage the participation of the youth in the political process in a productive manner rather than only dissenting from a distance. With the increased demands from the general public combined with new players, there will be additional pressure on the government. The democracy will function the way it is supposed to, with the government being submissive and not the other way round.
For this to happen, there is an urgent need for widespread awareness, through eminent personalities, and through the media, of course. Along with neutral journalism, there needs to be more of educative journalism to promote thought amongst the masses. It goes without saying that in order to promote democracy, all its pillars need to come together. Once there is enough momentum to this, the judiciary must, in an unbiased manner listen to arguments and counterarguments pertaining to the issue, and the executive and legislature must acknowledge the need for greater accountability and empowering the people further.
In conclusion, NOTA is an option for the ones who wish to see a change, but do not see so through the current ones. It is an option for that person who doesn’t know who to cast his/her vote for, but doesn’t want to let his opportunity go to waste. It is an option for the intolerant and the indifferent and anyone else who understands the significance and beauty of existing in a democracy. It might be a long haul, it might take some time to make a change, but of all things, NOTA is not a waste of your vote.