To declare you are not voting...

Rule 49-O, framed in 1961, gives you the right not to vote, but few know about it. One doesn’t know what the Election Commission’s Manual of Election Law looks like. So he has never had to turn to Page 72, where, at the bottom, is an innocuous detail that goes by the name 49(0).

Walk up to the presiding officer, sign the register, ask for Form 49A and say he would like to vote for: nobody. That’s what Rule 49(0) does-the closest Indian voters can get to negative voting.

According to the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, an elector can refuse to vote after he has been identified and necessary entries made in the register of electors. The EC has no data on the number of people who have used the rule because these “votes” are not counted and there have only been stray incidents of activism so far. But those who believe in the Rule say 49(0) gives people a powerful right: to say ‘No’ without boycotting the democratic process. They hope, at least theoretically, that with better awareness among voters, 49(0) will force political parties to put up better candidates.

According to the Election Commission, barely 2 to 3 voters used Rule 49(0) to not vote in favour of any candidate in the Delhi assembly elections. But VS Sreedhara, who voted under the Rule in the recent Karnataka assembly elections, is willing to believe in, what he calls a hypothesis: “Someday, if the people who turn out not to vote are more than the number of votes a winning candidate gets, if not anything else, it will serve to embarrass the winning candidate.”

But Prof Jagdeep Chokkar of the Association for Democratic Reforms, whose organisation has been pushing for electoral reforms, thinks there should be better and easier ways to express dissent — maybe a “None of the above (NOTA)” option on the EVM or a winning limit of “50 per cent plus one” votes. “Rule 49(0) is self-defeating because the person who uses it has to be so motivated as to stand in a line, wait for his turn and then say he is not voting.”
कोई भी मूल्य एवं संस्कृति तब तक जीवित नहीं रह सकती जब तक वह आचरण में नहीं है.

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