2019 LS polls: RSS gears up for counter-campaign against calls for stronger NOTA

As calls for giving more teeth to NOTA grow stronger, RSS , a known critic of NOTA, will mount a counter-campaign. RSS reportedly believes that it wasn’t Congress, but NOTA that defeated BJP in MP


Ashutosh Sharma

An online campaign calling for a stronger NOTA (None Of The Above button on voting machines) seems to have hit a roadblock. Ahead of ensuing general elections, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has decided to hit the political war ground with its campaign “no NOTA” during the polls.

While the online petition was launched by Sucheta Dalal, veteran journalist and managing editor of Moneylife earlier this month, a section of media on Thursday reported that after BJP’s poor poll show in the recently held state Assembly elections, the RSS—which claims to be a cultural organisation—has decided to start a door-to-door awareness campaign in this regard. “RSS believes that it wasn’t Congress, but NOTA that defeated BJP in Madhya Pradesh,” report claimed.

Pertinently, during his Vijaydashami speech, Bhagwat had touched upon two main issues. First, ordinance on Ram Mandir. And secondly, people should refrain from pressing NOTA in elections. An ABP news repory quoted RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat as saying, “One happens to give a chance to a wrong candidate by pressing on NOTA option while casting vote.”

On the other side, the petition addressed to Chief Election Commissioner of India (CEC) Sunil Arora requests, “Please give teeth to NOTA by calling for a re-poll when NOTA polls the highest votes. It is your decision and one that will lead to a historical change.”

“As we head into a historical general election, the country is looking to you to ensure a free and fair election in which political parties field the right candidates – that is, persons who are committed to good governance and nation building,” the petition reads, urging CEC and his fellow election commissioners to “help bring about a positive and long-lasting change that gives more meaning to our democracy and the universal adult franchise.”

“One of your predecessors, Mr T S Krishnamurthy has already given a call to hold elections in a constituency again if NOTA has polled the highest votes. As he says, India’s first-past-the-post system has already outlived its utility and people are getting impatient with the quality of options presented to them by political parties,” the petition further reads, listing the following three recent examples:

  • At the recent assembly elections in five states, NOTA performed better than many well-known political parties.
  • Even in the Karnataka elections in May 2018, NOTA polled more than many political parties.
  • In 30 constituencies of Gujarat, NOTA outscored the winning margin.

The petition continues: “Many people are frustrated at the lack of options but consider NOTA a waste of their vote. A decision to call for a re-poll when NOTA scores the highest, will empower citizens and force political parties to think.”

“Political parties are smart and know how to win elections. If they realise that their usual tricks (dummy candidates, multiple candidates, freebies and other inducements) will not work, they will ensure that they choose candidates with a record of good public service and not the ones who can spend the most public money,” it claimed, impressing upon the CEC, “At one stroke you, as head of the Election Commission, would have changed the quality of our democratic process post 2019, just as T N Sheshan had changed the quality of the election process.”

On Twitter, Sucheta also requested former CEC SY Qureshi and Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa to support the cause, maintaining that “it will put the fear of janta (public) in the minds of politicians!”

Incidentally, former CEC Quraishi, in the past, has batted for the continuation of NOTA, maintaining that it would curb impersonation, besides exerting pressure on political parties to put up better candidates.

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