Those who wanted to exercise the ‘no vote’ option were ridiculed, pushed and shoved, and almost arrested as presiding officers at many booths in the local elections were not aware of Section 49 (0) that allows one a ‘no-vote option.’ It was only after citizens pointed out the legal provisions that the authorities allowed them to do so.
“I was pushed and almost beaten up and have filed a complaint with the police. I went to the booth at Ambernath and when I said I wanted to exercise the ‘No vote’ option, politicians in the booth bashed me up in front of the police and asked me to cast my vote. But when I remained firm, the presiding officer allowed me to do so,” Rajil Menon (31), a media professional from Ambernath said. “It almost became a law and order problem,” he rued.
Another citizen from Ambernath, Priyanka Ghosh, a law student, told HT she was ridiculed when she said she did not want to vote.
“I was almost arrested when I said that I wanted to cast a protest vote. Even the presiding officer was not aware of the section and he only read it after I pointed it out,” she said.
“I was also asked to go back to Kolkata if I created a problem like this. I am deeply hurt,” she said.
Prominent ‘No Vote’ campaigner James John, the AGNI coordinator for Andheri (east), said, “This is shocking. I got calls from people saying that the authorities themselves are not aware of the rule. This could lead to serious problems. It is a failure on the part of the government.”
Many officials are still not aware of the 'no vote' option. By not voting, one can register his or her protest so that in future none of the candidates can contest elections.
Also the person is using his or her constitutional obligation and avoiding possible bogus voting, added John. There are many misconceptions even among polling officers regarding the protest vote. In Lok Sabha elections, we received several calls from angry voters as they were forced to vote against some candidate, he added.