'Give Power To NOTA Before Making Elections Compulsory' Claims Citizen Groups

'Give Power To NOTA Before Making Elections Compulsory' Claims Citizen Groups

However, citizen groups feel that further reforms are needed to make the NOTA vote as important as a vote in favour of a candidate

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Monday, May 06, 2024, 09:23 PM IST
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FPJ

Citizens groups are sceptical about Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis' statement that people who do not vote in the elections should be penalised.Fadnavis made the statement recently while commenting on the low voter turnout in the first two phases of the general elections. In Maharashtra, it is estimated that only 63% of voters turned up at the polling booths in the phases in April.

Mumbai will vote on May 20. Fadnavis said that India should follow the example of countries that reduce tax benefits for citizens who do not exercise their fundamental duty to vote.Reacting to Fadnavis' suggestion that India should have rules to penalise those who skip their duty, Vinay Somani, founder of Karmayog, a platform for citizens' groups, said, "It is a good idea if political parties put up candidates who we can vote for. Our vote has to be worthwhile. It can be frustrating if the candidates are not worth our vote.

"Groups working to increase citizens' participation in the electoral process said that before penalising those who do not vote, the Election Commission should change how it plans and conducts the elections. Jitendra Gupta of the group 'Manifesto', which recently released a 'Charter of Commitments' that candidates visiting election events will be asked to sign, said that he was surprised that the Election Commission has made this blunder in continuing its habit of conducting the voting process on days next to weekends.

"It is surprising that the Election Commission which has conducted hundreds of elections does not understand that summer holidays are not the best time to conduct elections. They should rectify their own mistakes," said Gupta who added that he supported minor penalties like loss of a day's salary if people do not vote on polling days declared a public holiday.

Indrani Malkani, Chairman Trustee, V Citizens Action Network (VCAN), a public group working with the Election Commission to increase citizens' participation in the electoral process, said that this year there is no excuse for not voting. "With all the systems and support that the Election Commission has made available, I cannot find any reason why a person will not exercise their franchise.

If you are unable to go to vote due to age or impairment, the Election Commission officers will come to take your vote," said Malkani. "If the candidates are not to your liking, then pressing the NOTA (None Of The Above) button is an option for casting your vote. Voting is a responsibility and a duty." NOTA, introduced after a Supreme Court verdict in 2013, is a tool now available in cases where citizens feel that none of the candidates put up by parties are worth their vote.

However, citizen groups feel that further reforms are needed to make the NOTA vote as important as a vote in favour of a candidate. "Before they make voting mandatory, the NOTA vote should be given its status: if the NOTA vote is more than the votes won by a candidate, the election should be canceled and redone. Currently, pressing the NOTA button is wasting your vote and this is the view on social media," said Gupta.

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