Not at all. Or rather, ‘none of the above’, in short, NOTA. This new button on electronic voting machines and its representative column in ballot papers are symbols of the additional power given to voters by order of the Supreme Court recently. Voters are now free not to accept — vote for — any of the candidates the various parties put up for election. This is a ‘deepening’ of democratic choice, and would, activists and idealists hope, compel political parties to select candidates who would be perceived as good in governance, efficient, ‘clean’, sincere about promises, interested in the good of the constituency rather than that of the family. The Supreme Court’s decision comes hard on the heels of the United Progressive Alliance government’s ordinance aimed at blunting the edge of the court’s ruling regarding the immediate disqualification of convicted legislators. The new weapon in the hands of voters will act as another constraint on tainted politicians.
Power to the people is always welcome in a democracy. But the logic of empowerment has also to be thought through on the practical level. From the point of view of procedure, it has to be decided what would happen if, as a result of the NOTA button, no one is elected in a constituency. If new candidates and re-elections are considered as the solution, finances have to be adjusted accordingly. The logic of infinite non-elections conjures up an alarming prospect. So certain sensible rules must be worked out. On another plane, the fact remains that there is no monolith called ‘the people’. Can everyone be expected to be aware enough, or concerned enough, about democracy, to stand in queue just to reject all candidates? The people must accept that the power to reject is an affirmative power, that it moulds and shapes government just as voting for a candidate does. Of course, this, too, is a matter of practice. A power has been given, practising will make it perfect.