Right to Reject could have affected 'unopposed' elections

There is no candidate fielded by any major political party against Dimple Yadav, Samajwadi Party's candidate for Kannauj Lok Sabha seat. Dimple Yadav is also the daughter-in-law of Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and Kannauj is undoubtedly a party stronghold. There are only two candidates as per newspaper reports against her (independent candidate Sanju Katiyar and Dashrath Shankhwar of Sanyukt Samajwadi Dal) and if these candidates withdraw their nominations before 9th June, then Dimple Yadav will walk into Lok Sabha unopposed. Without getting into the debate of 'samajwaad' vs 'parivarwaad', is it really fair in democracy for a candidate to get elected 'unopposed' because how will common people figure out whether she is a unanimous choice of people (of Kannauj in this instance) or behind the scene efforts were made to ensure no one fights election against her? If our Indian Constitution had taken right to vote and right to reject at par, then this power would rest with the voter and election outcomes could be different.

Section 49 (o) of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, allows an Indian voter to not vote for any of the candidates contesting an election by registering it on Form 17 A if she feels that none deserve her vote. Essentially the Indian voter has as much a right not to vote as a right to vote. But present interpretation and implementation of Right to Reject is such that it hardly has any influence on election outcomes. Experience of people who used right to reject in past Vidhan Sabha elections was very discouraging. We not only need to ensure that right to reject has a direct impact on election outcomes, but also ensure that right to reject is as much respected and confidential as right to vote.

The Chief Election Commissioner has already said that time has come for the implementation of right to reject option. The most effective way for this would be to provide a button on the electronic voting machine (EVM) at the end of the list of all candidates. Further a rule should be made that if more people vote to reject all candidates than the highest votes polled by any candidate then the election should be countermanded. Fresh election with new candidates should be held. Candidates rejected by people once should not be allowed to contest again. In this manner, hopefully, right candidates would be selected and the undesirable ones would be eliminated from the contest.

If right to reject and right to vote both have a direct impact on election results, then it will give more power to the voter. Imagine that if more people voted to reject an unopposed candidate than the number of votes polled by that candidate then scenario could be very different. The real power of vote for or against such an unopposed candidate would have been with the voter. Also it would have thwarted efforts of people who want to contest unopposed and ensure no one fights election against them.

Bobby Ramakant - CNS 

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Citizen News Service (CNS), India/Thailand
Spy Ghana News, Accra, Ghana