Friday, January 30, 2009

"No vote" is a not a solution

Over the last few years, there has been an effort to introduce an option - "None of the Above" in our ballot. The Election Commission of India too has endorsed this option.
But in a representative democracy, the 'No Vote' is not an answer to the problems that plague our democratic system.
Such an option was introduced in Bangladesh, during the recent parliamentary election there in December 2008. I was privileged to have been invited as one of the international election observers during that election. We found that only a fraction of 1% of voters cast their ballot in favour of the "None of the Above".
The reason is not too difficult to fathom. An astonishing 85% of the people had turned out to vote on December 29, 2008. Most of them were poor. And most of them turned out in hope that the election would throw up better leaders, better solutions to the their problems, better opportunities for themselves and their country. Voting "No" would have undermined the democratic process itself.


Following is an editorial in Indian Express (30 Jan 2009), calling for a rethink on the "None of the Above".
Double Negative
Indian Express - Editorial
The question posed in the Supreme Court for the Central Government was straightforward. Does the right to vote, the bench asked the government counsel this week while hearing a petition on the subject, include the right to not vote? The reference was not abstention from voting, but the demand by the petitioner that the election ballot have an option for the voter to register her discontent with the fray by hitting a “none of the above” button. The counsel duly registered the government’s reservations about the reform, and in due course other respondents will make their submissions.

Negative voting is an idea that catches the imagination every few years. But there is ample reason to ask whether it is a proposal that is not only problematic in itself, but also whether it is cited as a solution to a misidentified problem. The case presumably is that by being given an imperfect choice the voter is constrained to cast a positive vote for the best of bad options. The “none of the above” button would put the fray on notice that they are not up to standard. Put simply, the reform would capture the public mood. How can that be wrong?

It can. The point of electoral democracy is to get the best possible outcome for viable governance, that is a government that derives its legitimacy from the expressed will of the people. Certainly norms are necessary for candidature. Of late there has been reform like compulsory declaration of assets and criminal records. There needs to be more — importantly, on intra-party democracy, so that lists of candidates are not the reflection of purely backroom dealings. But even in the best case scenario, human nature being what it is, is there any guarantee that the voter will be satisfied with the fray? And if a substantial chunk of the votes cast are for “none of the above”, then what? Is that an inducement for that mythical perfect candidate to make an appearance? May it not instead deny the winning candidate the legitimacy needed to be an effective legislator? In any case, in a democracy, the people should never be fully satisfied with the legislatures they get. They must always be impatient to get the best out of their elected representatives.


  1. hi
    i do not agree with you , please do not compare india with bangladesh.
    Today in india mejority people are educated and they want to vote but problem is that when we see the list there are 8 candidates all gundas criminals so why should they vote,why should they select a gunda,criminal.
    2nd is do you think the parliament which is run by gundas,criminals or in a coaliation govt,where a criminal becomes chief minister will allow The good Politicans make such laws which wil forbid criminals for contesting elections, even our pmo is not ready to say how much there earings are,
    just think,so none above option will show that
    all are gundas,its postivie step towards improvemnt.
    ty for worrying about india our country,as here we can see in india is full of educated,but uneducated people.
    see you later

  2. Hi,
    If majority of the people in India are "educated", then first, why do so few of the educated go out to vote? Secondly, if they did go and vote, why do so many 'unworthy' people get elected?
    I think we need to understand why do those who go out to vote every time, do so. Why do the poor vote in such large numbers? Perhaps this will help us understand the democratic process better. We might discover that those who go out to vote, do have a reason to do so. And that need may not be met if they voted for a "No".
    Lets continue the discussion.

  3. hi
    ty for reading, last comment u can read that i said india is a country full of educated but uneducated people. they are just qualified to do something,to opeartate machinery , they are afraid to go to police, they are afraid to judiciary also. recently there was survey done by few television channels and they found out this.
    2nd is we have in india,we have culture of caste,religion voting ,if this candidate is my caste i will vote, if my liquor licence is passed my whole slum voters will give you vote.
    we do not have visionary politicians like lal bahadur shastri, and others who belived in Jai jAWAN JAI KISSIAN,todays politicians belive in give me partnership i give you sez.
    give me money i will legalised your wrong deeds you can see what is happening in saytam,
    IN last 60 years do u have seen correct reforms done by politician.
    First we must understand that our laws are not effective to keep check on our law makers.
    lates eg. is Mulayam singh and his huge money,
    first cbi said there is evidence,but now mulaym becomes friend of congress now cbi says there is no case.
    Then there is RTI problems, you can see now if u visit RTI THERE also we find hugh pending cases.
    they have not passed a single law in last sixty years where we can find there is accoutablity of lawmaker politician.
    Now your point about why poor people vote,reasons is again delay in justice system,
    our police dept is servant of politicans and govt babus officials.
    iF possible you can read about Tehelaka when they exposed politicians after that you know the tehelka team was so harrased that after that there is no exposure from tehelka try to find out there sad story, without reason relatives harrased by tax dept, telephone cuts so much.
    Our judiciary has no power to order the lawmaker do it.
    judiciary has ordered them police reforms in year 2000 but still do you see any changes.
    i want to say our politicians will never improve.
    when judiciary is helpless, educated common man is helpless
    we get onlyone chance in five years to elect elect a politicain without right to recall him
    if he does courrpition.
    So this none of option if shows in one city that 51% voters rejected all candidated,
    with law we can debar them and in 2nd election those candidates will not be allowed to stand for elections.
    today who gets tickets to stand for elections,
    do you see political parties giving tickets to honest persons.
    do you thought what is reason our lawmakers are not making a simple law
    once a person is chargeshited by a lower court he should not be allowed
    to stand for elections.
    let me explain what is chargesheet, in short when person is arrest by police
    he is produced before court and chargesheet is filed, if prime facie that is if the judge thinks that there is case ,there is a point that this man may have committed crime so the charges are framed and he is tried.
    in our india situation is that high court has convicted dutt,sidhu and many others ,but still they are our leaders.

    none of the vote option is a simple step which will give or little bit encourgment that i voted,
    tell me when i see a criminal is standing and have to vote or sit home
    what should the common man do when all are criminals. and gundas in my city who are standing for elections.
    what is the use of my vote when in end i have to choose a criminal ,gunda,or uneducated person as my leader.
    in this case also in my blog i have suggest ways like to go for voting and on that paper write down no one is eligible, my vote is waste ,

    our indian people are still uneducated about our consititution,
    for eg manglore pub incident every one is crying about violance about females. WHy dont you see that it was there fundamental right was violated
    by him, ram sena attacted on our constitutional rights.

    THE thinking of ram sena is superiror or our constitution rights our laws
    this should be the discussion and fines to be imposed.

    in this compareason i will tell u usa example, may be u read this
    one indian bpo employee got call from one british girl,so this employee
    called back her and said your voice is sweet,will u be my friend and -----
    so she complantied to bt telecome and in 24 hours bt telecom send her sorry letter with a cheque of 2000 pounds as compensation
    1 pound is 80 rupess this is justice why bt telecom paid because they know if girl goes to uk judiciary they will have to pay ten times more.
    what will happen if a political party parades a girl naked in india ?
    this is a country where produly ram sena chief and bajrang dal says we will marry boys and girls if they found together.

    in this all sitation only law is the way out.
    even supreme court of india said that
    god save india.

  4. hi
    mit / sm its me same sorry if i confuse you.
    do visit my blog,hope u like few posts.

    ty again for responding to comment as very few bloggers respond exhange of thoughts makes us enrich in knowledge
    Silence never won rights. They are not handed down from above; they are forced by pressures from below.
    see you later

  5. We will vote for 49 O because we want to send a message to politicians that we will no longer accept the corrupt and inefficient as our leaders.

    More than 260 million people do not vote in elections. Even if 1% of them were to vote for 49 O, it will send shivers among the politicians.

    When we don't say no it means yes to evil.

    Join us at to create a better India

  6. If our politicians have not been shaken by the fact that 300 million voters may not cast their vote this time, I fail to understand why they will be shaken by 1% of people who may use 49(O).In fact, many politicians and bureaucrats might be quite happy if the voter turn out is low, because then they may continue to do what they are doing without bothering about the voters concerns. If we are really concerned about the way our country is being led, then we have only these options.
    1) Go out and vote, and persuade as many people as possible to vote as well.
    2) Look at all the candidates contesting in a constituency, and scrutinise them thoroughly, and we may find that some of the lesser known ones might actually be a better candidate.
    3) If we are still not satisfied with the slate of candidates, then we have put ourselves up as candidate, and try and persuade the voters that we are a better option.
    Staying away, or voting NO will not get us anywhere.