BJP leader LK Advani on Sunday appeared to be on the same page as Narendra Modi as he endorsed the Gujarat chief minister's view that there that there should be compulsory voting along with the None of the Above (NOTA) option. Modi and Advani have shared an acrimonious relationship over Modi being named as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
In his latest blog post, Advani welcomed the Supreme Court order that people should have the option of a negative vote. However, he added that along with this provision, voting should be made mandatory.
"As things stand today, voters who without any legitimate justification have not been exercising the valuable right of franchise the Indian Constitution has conferred on them have, unwittingly thus, been casting a negative vote against all the contesting candidates without intending to do so," Advani said.
“I hold, therefore, that a negative vote would become really meaningful if it is accompanied also by the introduction of mandatory voting," he added.
Advani, who had resisted Modi's elevation first as BJP's campaign committee chief and later as the PM candidate, gave credit to the Gujarat CM for making the first move in this direction.
"The only state in India which has on its own initiative moved in this direction (compulsory voting) is Gujarat. Under Narendra Modi, its assembly has twice legislated for compulsory voting but the bill has not received the assent of the governor, or even of New Delhi," Advani said.
He pointed out that 31 countries in the world have compulsory voting but only a dozen of them actually enforce it by having deterrent provisions for citizens who fail to vote without any justified reason.
The senior BJP leader felt that the Election Commission should convene an all-party meeting for a purposeful debate on the entire issue after providing them the text of the Supreme Court judgement and a comprehensive report on the laws and rules in these 31 countries.
Recalling the Supreme Court's advice that electronic voting machines should have one additional button marked NOTA, the BJP patriarch said this has been generally welcomed.
The Election Commission has already said that this provision will be there in the forthcoming Assembly elections to five states.
In his blog, Advani has also praised former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi for arguing through newspaper articles that India should have the negative vote option.
"The former CEC's articles also indicate that the Supreme Court's proposal is not really a rejection vote, it is essentially an abstention vote," Advani said.