Thursday, March 06, 2014


I am reasonably conscientious about my civic duties and responsibilities and I expect to be voting in this election to the Lok Sabha. Our system is based on secret ballots, but my vote will not be fully confidential because I am going to reveal a part of who I will be voting for; rather, I will be revealing what option I will not be choosing.
I will not choose the “None Of The Above” option (NOTA) on the ballot list. No, it is not because I expect that by the time the polling date came around, I would be enamored of some one or the other on the list. It is indeed because I will never be enamored of the NOTA button.
I have my reasons. No, they are not related to any constitutional or legal infirmity that NOTA option may harbor. I am not at that level of legal acuity. My discomfort arises from the message I will be sending out if I chose NOTA. To be brief about it, NOTA is open ended.
NOTA is almost like the NC-17 movie rating in the US. At the highest level of film rating, it is open ended, anything goes, but the movies to which children cannot go is clearly defined. An extremity defined. So is NOTA, for being at the extreme end of dissatisfaction with the slate of candidate names. At this level, the NOTA option is also open ended, but with a difference and I will come to it shortly.
The rating system is tuned to protecting children and there ends the matter.  The difference is, the slate with NOTA offers an easy way out for the voter, in a sense protects him or her, by allowing open ended demands. In fact, I will go further and say that NOTA excuses the lazy voter who knows only who all to reject and is ignorant of who will be acceptable. The slate without NOTA forces the voter to choose the best from the given list and that should be the limit. NOTA introduces a skew and I am against this.
The NOTA option is a non-option in the sense the voter does not offer a commitment as to what is required of a candidate to get her nod. Her demands can be ratcheted up continuously. She shows no commitment to the system. Indeed, if I were to be harsh about it, she abdicates her responsibility as a citizen. In what way, I ask seriously, would casting a NOTA vote be different from choosing not to cast one’s vote? We are quick to condemn people for abdicating one’s responsibility for not voting. The same opprobrium should be visited upon those who vote NOTA, in my reckoning. Indeed, the NOTA option negates the maxim “Every vote counts!”
Just as NC-17 is open ended, so is the NOTA option. Whereas NC-17 is intended to protect children, without the NOTA option the Indian citizen is enjoined and constrained to choose his representative from among those available. This constraint is loosened with NOTA. If what is on the menu is not to your taste you are welcome to leave; or, to be more correct, stay home on polling day.
NOTA option is meaningful only if the voter goes against the principle of secret ballots. But, of course, the Indian voter, if she has any demands as to what characteristics she desires in the lawmakers, will be ineffective unless she revealed her identity. Therefore, in my opinion, the NOTA option is ineffective in the eyes of the system that we have devised for ourselves, every which way. It is in fact useless because there are no limits and no limits can indeed be imposed.
A closing point. Will AAP go and campaign in constituencies where it is not fielding candidates and beseech the voters on behalf of NOTA? I guess not. And, that ends my argument.
The system without NOTA ensures a definite end to the process whereas with NOTA we might be on a ladder of infinite polling days! I am happy with the nine we have this time round.
And, I am off to the booth to cast my vote. And, I will not be pressing NOTA!
Raghuram Ekambaram


Aditi said...

I agree that NOTA is no choice. One might as well not cast a vote.

Whenever I have voted, and that must be at least for past 20 odd years, I have always voted for some political party or the other, even if the candidate representing the party as such does not inspire much confidence. This time also I will act similarly.

mandakolathur said...

Thanks for endorsing my thoughts, Aditi.