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I voted 49-O

Posted by RB Kollannur on April 16, 2009


This is the first time I had the opportunity to exercise my vote for the country and I chose not to vote, as per the guidelines set by 49-O.

I went to the polling booth around 11:00 today and got my credentials verified by the authorities. I informed the person there I choose not to vote.  He informed me to go to the EVM and press the blue button. Surprised to hear that I went to the EVM to see no separate button for registering my refusal.

After some confusion, it was clear that the election officers did not realize I was refusing to vote, but thought I was not aware of the process and was helping me to vote. The Presiding Officer stepped in and when I informed of my intentions,  he informed the poll officer to write “Refused to Vote” against my name and asked me to sign.

That is the How. This is the why :

What am I voting for?

Representation in the legislature and the selection of the government.

Which is more important?

Selection of the government. It is better to have your say in governance, than none at all.

Anti Defection Act establishes the primacy of the political party over the representative. So, a representative cannot effectively represent his constituency, without his party’s consent.

An independent representative will be limited in his ability to perform effectively in the legislature and the government, given his lack of political affiliation within the legislature.

How do I decide who I want in the government?

By going through the manifestos of each political party and their past performance.

However, given that no political party can come to power on their own (No single party has gained majority in the Lok Sabha since 1984), manifestos are all subject to change and will be based on coalition performance. We do not have a coalition manifesto so far. But then there is no guarantee that a pre-poll coalition will stay true for the tenure of the legislature.

With manifestos subject to change and uncertainty looming over government at all time, it will be difficult to pin accountability on a political party for not meeting their manifesto as well.

How will I then decide whom to vote for?

Take a judgment call on who will serve my interests best in the next five years. Settle for the lesser evil.

STOP!

Is this how I should decide on my choice of vote?

1) There is a lack of clarity on what the complete policy of the next government will be irrespective for whom I vote.

2) There is a lack of clarity on which set of parties will form the next government.

3) Any government formed will be inherently unstable given the nature of coalitions (Each government post 1989 has had to face many motions of no confidence, which few did not survive).

4) With inherent instability, policy making will be at threat, depending on the whims and fancies of allies.

5) Then there are the clichéd issues of hate politics and divisive politics, which gives smaller parties enough room in the legislature with which they can become king-makers and ensure their political survival.

When the next national elections come, in five years (hopefully) from now, these problems will be as true and valid as they are now. The political parties that form the legislature have a sufficient voter base to ensure their long term survival. Given the fractured nature of verdicts, it is likely that small parties will play a key role in government formation and provide good returns to their voters. However, at a national level this leads to uncertainty and instability.

These problems have now been ingrained into the current electoral system and it is unlikely that we will have a stable and confident government.  EVER.

In the long run, this augurs badly for the nation – to have unstable governments and indecisive leadership follow one after the other. It may seem okay for the next five years. But will you be okay with it for the next 20-30 years when you or your kids will have to bear the heat, as we compete with the rest of the world?

Should I compromise on my long term future by procrastinating electoral reform to make the Indian democracy effective?

By choosing to vote, I will be endorsing the current system of elections. I will be settling to meet my short term objectives sacrificing the long term ones.

So, I choose not to endorse an electoral system which brings unstable governments, indecisive leadership and  regional fragmentation of the nation.

I choose not to vote, till a day where we can have stable, decisive and a united government.

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9 Responses to “I voted 49-O”

  1. […] K at A View From My Disjointed Laptop explains why the blogger had to vote 49-0 (refused to vote): “By choosing to vote, I will be […]

  2. aks said

    I’ve voted just once before and at that time, I had no idea about 49-0. Had I known, that’s what I would have done !

  3. Arby K said

    That’s the thing. Nobody knows about it. But its effect is ambiguous. It was introduced to avoid fraudulent voting if the actual person do not vote. It is unlikely to have an effect on the final result.

  4. […] blogger, “Arby K,” chose not to vote, protesting India’s electoral system:  When the next national […]

  5. munishraizada said

    Good to see that you took efforts to cast a negative vote. The process of casting a negative vote must be made as simple as casting a (positive) vote. In other words, NOTA (none of the above) option should be available on the ballot paper or EVM. Negative vote can be a potent weapon to drive out the bulls from political field!

  6. munishraizada said

    also, please see http://www.mifindia.org

  7. Arby K said

    Just to be clear, 49-O is not negative voting. It has no electoral significance and can be ignored at the time of counting. But given the other options, of not going to vote or selecting a lesser candidate, I think this is the preferable route. The effect is only symbolic, though.
    There are moves to introduce negative voting going on. They are still in the process.

  8. hemalshah1986 said

    Yeah, there is no way you can exercise this 49-0.

  9. […] for me, there will be only a slight modification this time to my vote in last general election, thanks largely to the Supreme Court of […]

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