In a historic ruling, the Supreme Court has decreed that the citizens have a right to reject all candidates contesting an election and has directed the Election Commission to provide for a 'none of the above' button on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers. With this, voters dissatisfied with all the candidates can cast negative votes to record their choice. The move expands choice and will have several positive effects, which are likely to improve the health of our democracy.
Many voters do not cast vote due to the perceived lack of worthy candidates. This right empowers them to reject them all, thereby disproving the charge political apathy buck-passing. The measure will also check the malpractice of proxy voting. Hitherto those who did not like to vote for any candidate could inform the polling officer and record their choice using Form 49 O. But this constitutes a breach of secrecy as the voter wa supposed to declare hsi identity. By making available the 'no-vote' option on the EVMs, voters will be able to put greater pressure on parties to field better candidates.
If a significant number of people cast negative votes, it would cut into the vote shares of standing candidates. And given our first-past-the-post system, it could be the difference between victory and defeat. This provision is prevalent in as many as 13 countries. This includes neighbouring Bangladesh where if the number of negative votes in an election exceeds 50% of the total votes cast, it automatically leads to a re-vote in that particular constituency. That is an excellent measure worthy of emulation. There is no reason why similar provisions cannot be enacted in India to improve the poor quality of our legislators.