NOTA or none of the above is the option given to voters to reject the candidates in her/his constituency. The Supreme Court in 2013 granted Indians the right to opt for NOTA while voting. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, nearly 60 lakh voters chose NOTA.
ThePrint asks: Is it right to shame NOTA voters and those who won’t vote?
Voting NOTA or not voting at all are also political statements
Contributing editor, ThePrint
There’s no one with greater commitment to democracy than the NOTA voter. The NOTA voter is someone who makes the effort to queue up and vote when she could have simply sat at home. But she makes the effort to go and vote NOTA. It shows she has faith in elections, only not in politicians in that particular election.
We should be proud of the NOTA voter. She is so much better than the person who sits at home and cribs about everything, but is too lazy to go to the polling booth. The NOTA voter makes the effort to make a point about disillusionment. The system itself gives you this democratic means to express disillusionment.
Those who don’t go to vote shouldn’t be shamed either. If even after the NOTA option someone chooses to not vote, she must have good reasons. May be her life doesn’t depend on who wins the election. May be she doesn’t care.
Voting is not compulsory in India like in some countries. It should never be compulsory. To not vote is also a political statement. It is a statement against the party you are loyal to. You are so let down by it that you don’t go to the polling booth at all. Or it’s a statement against democracy. Maybe it doesn’t do anything for a voter. By not voting, she is making this point and we should respect that sentiment.
Collective shaming of NOTA voters, by itself, shouldn’t be seen as much of a problem
The response to certain questions should only come from first principles that have come to be accepted by most over a period of time. Otherwise, it becomes arbitrary and self-serving. Thus, instead of focusing on collective shaming of NOTA or the non-exercise of voting right, the relevant question to ask is – when, and to what extent, is collective shaming fine and when is it not?
Collective shaming by itself shouldn’t be seen as much of a problem. After all, everyone has the right and freedom to express themselves. However, under no circumstances should the verbal act of collective shaming be allowed to regress into any kind of material harm (or even the threat of it) to the person being shamed. Beyond the act of shaming, only legal processes and widely accepted institutional norms should operate.
If I don’t vote, others can criticise me for it, even in unison. But since by choosing not to vote, or voting NOTA, I am neither in violation of my country’s laws nor in fact of any of its fundamental constitutional principles, I can’t be, say for instance, fired from my job. It doesn’t matter how strongly my boss may feel about voting.
Also read: BJP & RSS spooked as more voters pick NOTA
Pressing NOTA is investing in slow and evolutionary change of sending signals to the system
Opinion editor, ThePrint
I am a NOTA advocate and I get constantly shamed for this by the pluralists who want to defeat the BJP. They tell me I am wasting my vote, that I may as well stay home and not vote, that I am indirectly helping the BJP come to power, that I am a closet BJP supporter, that I am not making my vote count in this grand test of history. It is inconceivable for them that I wouldn’t want to also vote for the Congress at this moment.
For me, elections are not the be-all and end-all of democracy. Even Iraq and Pakistan conduct elections. But democracy is about the health and credibility of institutions, about the freedom to dissent in public and about not agreeing to concentrate all power and wisdom in the hands of rulers for five years.
When I see that parties don’t offer these, I reject them. It isn’t a theoretical construct, I did vote for them all before NOTA came along. Pressing NOTA is investing in slow, incremental and evolutionary change of sending signals to the system. Pressing NOTA is not wasting my vote. Not casting vote is wasting my vote. NOTA is about not getting distracted by the tactical power battles of the here and now with the ‘vote trader’ parties. It’s about keeping my franchise pure and keeping my conscience clear.
I am tired of people using TINA as an excuse to repeatedly vote for the visibly and demonstrably wrong candidate, when they have the NOTA. TINA can easily be replaced by Nota Is My Option.
Yes, I prefer to wear a T-shirt called “NIMO Again!”
NOTA would be seen as a legitimate option only if it was more than a button on EVM
Senior copy editor, ThePrint
A vote can mean different things to different people, and the factors that differentiate between the meaning of two votes depend on the social, economic and ideological position of the people casting them.
But in all cases, what’s common is that the vote is a personal, individual voice – that reality may not be visible in various parts of India, as voting patterns dictated by village heads or patriarchal men would show, but this doesn’t take away the vote’s intrinsic character: its individuality.
At the same time, staying away from the process (or choosing an option that does little more than put your voice in a category designed to be a mere statistic in the larger scheme of things) can be seen as an act of disservice in a society faced with the danger of fascism, segregation and mayhem. The fact that your selection of NOTA is NOT in the favour of the advancement of the danger that is being foreseen and opposed by another section in your society, speaks about your opposition to the popular choice. And yet, you ultimately make a choice that does not affect the one you oppose in any manner.
NOTA would be seen as a legitimate option if it was more than just a button on EVM – if it meant that the candidate with maximum votes stands defeated if the constituency has polled more NOTA votes. But that is not the case.
The question of shaming someone for their voting choice does not arise. But the value, or the lack of it, a NOTA voice represents, can and must be pointed out.
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