The Supreme Court has given a ruling in what appears to be a landmark judgement on the electoral process in India. The ruling says that citizens have right to cast negative vote rejecting all candidates contesting polls, a decision which the court thinks will encourage people not satisfied with contestants to turn up for voting.
The apex court directed the Election Commission to provide ‘none of the above options’ (NOTA) at the end of the list of candidates in electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers to allow voters to reject those contesting polls.
There was always an option of right of negative vote under the rule 49-O. But it had to be registered in the name of the voter which took away the secrecy behind the vote. The new ruling allows a secret ballot even while rejecting all the contestents.
Will this ruling have a profound impact on the quality of candidates being put into fray by the political parties? Well time will tell but there is a chance that it may still not have a major impact. Is there an incentive for the people who are not satisfied with the candidates to actually come up and cast his negative vote? Its not clear what role the negative vote will play in the outcome of the elections. So one may register a negative vote to register “protest” against the candidates,but it doesn’t affect the outcome of the elections as a winner will still be decided based on the positive votes. So there is no incentive for a disgruntled voter to stand in the queue to cast his negative vote.
There has to be further clarity and rule formations based on negative votes. If for example if the NOTA registers more votes than the candidate who wins the max positive votes, will the election be declared void as well as all candidates disqualified and barred from contesting again for say a period of five years and lose their deposit as well? If yes, then it will be an incentive for the voters to come and vote as well as political parties to come up with better candidates.If not,then NOTA will end up serving as a vote splitter benefitting political parties.
On the flip side,there is a general disgruntlement against the political parties. Most voters may not even be informed about the candidates in the fray and might just come and register a negative vote just because of the general anti politician mindset that exists in the common man.
Another situation that comes to mind is that a person may like a candidate but doesn’t appreciate he views of his party at large and he doesn’t like the rest of the candidates. He may still end up rejecting all the candidates because of Party policies at a higher level.
While the ruling appears good,without larger electoral reforms,it will be a move that will not add any significant value on its own.