With general general elections around the corner and increasing civil society pressure, the Election Commission has asked the Central government to allow the option of not to vote for candidate listed on the electronic voting machine (EVM).
The commission, in a reply to a RTI application of an RTI activist Subhash Chandra Aggarwal, said that the government had recently been asked to provide for negative/neutral voting by adding the option of “none of the above” in the EVMs.
Hindustan Times had, in December, run a series on a need for people to have power to recall elected representatives and allow casting of negative votes.
Civil society organisations like Association for Democratic Reforms, (ADR) which has been asking for “none of the above” to be provided in the EVMs want the government to cancel the elections, if the maximum votes are polled under this option.
“This will provide a meaning to the option,” said Anil Bhairwal, national coordinator of ADR, the organisation, which has launched a signature campaign to pressurise the government to allow “none of the above option” on EVMs.
A senior Commission official, however, clarified that if majority of the votes are polled for “none of the above” option, it will not mean that the election is nullified.
“It would mean that people opting for none of the above are abstaining from voting for the candidates listed on the EVM machine,” the official, who was not willing to be quoted, said.
The option of voting for “none of the above” is not available on the EVMs. A voter has to seek a separate form, as per section 49-O of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, to vote for none of the candidates contesting.
“It is a very tedious task and most electoral staff are not aware of 49 O,” said Jagdeep Chokar, former dean of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, who had used 49 O in the recently conducted elections for Delhi assembly.