More than 850 voters in the Capital turned up to vote for ‘nobody’ during the Lok Sabha elections on May 7. According to data provided by the Delhi Election Commission, 854 people made use of rule 49-O that gives you the right not to vote for any candidate.
This group of determined people walked up to the polling booths on Saturday morning, signed the register and voted for ‘none of the above’. Youth For Equality, the student's organization that made its political debut this year, has been actively campaigning to popularise rule 49-O amongst voters.
“As awareness increases so will the number of people opting for 49-O. Political parties do not talk about this rule because they don't want to lose their vote share,” said Kaushal Mishra, president, YFE.
“The Election Commission has erred by not maintaining a separate register for voters who wanted to opt for 49-O,”
said Mishra. However, J.K. Sharma, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Delhi clarified that 49-O was just another rule for conduct of election.
“There is no separate form or register for exercising 49-O. You have to sign in the common register and say you don’t want to vote for any candidate,” said Sharma.
The figure of 854 would have been higher if all the people who wanted to chose 49-O had been allowed to do so. “The polling officers did not have any clue about 49-O,” said Hari Srinivasan (29), bank executive from Dwarka’s Sector 19.
At one booth in Karol Bagh, officers had an argument over the existence of the rule. Several voters in Gurgaon also failed to exercise 49-O due to the ignorance of presiding officers.
Mishra added that a button on the EVM would be much more effective.“The Election Commission has recommended that if in any constituency the number of votes for 49-O exceeds the votes polled by any candidate then there should be re-polling and the candidatures cancelled. But nobody is willing to implement this,” said Mishra.
Those who opted to exercise 49-O said they were sending out a clear message. “I was not happy with any of the candidates in my constituency. If I had stayed at home, it would have meant that I did not care,” said Satbir Jain, software professional from East Delhi.