New Delhi: The right to reject candidates appears to have found few takers in the recently concluded assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Punjab.
Only 3,838 people out of 96 million voters in the five states chose to reject all contesting candidates under Rule 49-O. According to the rule, a voter has to inform the presiding officer at a polling booth and record the reason for not picking any of the candidates. The right to reject, if cleared by Parliament, will give the voter an option to record his choice on the electronic voting machine itself. The right to reject rule will keep the identity of the voter a secret.
Of the voters who exercised the option, 2,939—or more than three-fourths—were from Uttar Pradesh. In Punjab, 439 voters chose the option. Uttarakhand registered 249 such voters, Manipur 37, and Goa 174, according to the Election Commission of India.
Offering an option: Anna Hazare. Photo: PTI
In November, anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare had campaigned for the inclusion of the option.
“I don’t see this figure as discouraging because one is looking at attitudinal change. It will take time for it to come,” said Kiran Bedi, a former police officer and member of Hazare’s group, citing the lack of public awareness about rule 49-O.
Right to Information activist Arvind Kejriwal, also one of Hazare’s key supporters, said an effective right to reject will attract more voters to chose the option.
“There is no facility of right to reject in the country—you can either sit back at home or choose to cancel your vote if you don’t like any of the candidates,” said Manish Sisodia, a member of India Against Corruption and another Hazare supporter.
Hazare and his supporters had met chief election commissioner (CEC) S.Y. Quraishi and other election commissioners over the issue last year. Quraishi said at the time that the Election Commission had suggested in December 2001 that the government give voters the right to exercise a “none of the above” option on the voting machine. A “right to reject” option will require an amendment in the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Such a move will persuade parties to choose more worthy candidates, besides curbing electoral malpractice, Hazare and his team said.
“The CEC observed that the demand for ‘right to reject’ would only have an impact if the voting percentages were really high,” the commission had said in a release at the time. “What is the use of exercising this right if half of the voters do not turn up for voting? The commission mentioned that the matter is also before the Supreme Court.”
The commission on Monday said Uttar Pradesh recorded an unprecedented 45.8% increase in voting over the 2007 assembly elections.
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