NOTA as a candidate

Every electronic gadget is prone to hacking. Thus the debate over correctness of electronic voting machines (EVMs) is of no use. Like every other electronic gadget, theoretically it can be hacked too, notwithstanding the strict security measures taken by the Election Commission (EC). To ensure free and fair elections in India the need of the hour is to reform the electoral system.

During the 1990’s under the chairmanship of the late Dinesh Goswami a committee was constituted to suggest what the country needs to do to reform its electoral process. The committee submitted a detailed report in this regard. The committee in its report put major stress on state funding. So that the power of money cannot cast a shadow over people’s will. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then. No government has so far taken any initiatives to make the recommendation in to a reality. Though on numerous occasions, cutting across political lines, almost all the top leaders of the country praised the report and held the late politician from Assam in high esteem.

As usual, things have undergone a change since the Dinesh Goswami Committee submitted its report. When the said report was published, EVMs were alien to India. Photo Identity Cards for the voters or presence of huge security contingents in and around the polling booth was a distant dream. The idea of Multi-phased election was just introduced. There was no provision called NOTA (None of the above).

So what India has to do now to clean its electoral system? The answer is very simple. Without any delay, EC should consider NOTA as candidate. If NOTA gets more votes than any other candidates, it would be declared as the winner and the losers should be barred from contesting elections for a certain period of time. There is no gainsaying that many voters have to cast their votes knowing very well that the candidates are not fit to be people’s representatives. One may argue in that case, the voter should abstain himself from voting if he or she does not find any candidate suitable. But the problem here is like academics, there is no pass mark to be a people’s representative. As per the Indian electoral system, even with a single vote, a candidate can be elected if it is more than his or her opponents. A recent example is the by-election in Srinagar parliamentary constituency. Only eight per cent votes were cast. Yet, the candidate with maximum number of votes declared elected, deliberately ignoring the fact that no less than 92 per cent of electorate refused to vote for any candidates.

In such a scenario, NOTA’s elevation as candidate will definitely bring fresh blood in Indian politics, because it will provide the electorate a chance to dismiss unscrupulous and non-serious candidates. More, it will force the political parties to select the best candidates who can ensure the support of the electorate. When such candidates will arrive in the electoral scene, all illegal powers, which can influence the outcome of the poll results, will be forced to make a hasty retreat. The dream of a free and fair election will become a reality.