I voted for nobody

I cast my vote today, for the very first time. For nobody.

I decided to use 49-O.

If I thought getting an EPIC was an adventure of sorts, the actual voting turned out to be even better.

About  two days ago I got to know details about 49-O wherein you can choose to actually cast your vote for noone.

You can get some details at http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/subord/cer1.htm and http://www.jaagore.com/issue/readComment.php?id=1538

My polling both was Evershine School in Sarvagnanagar. This comes under the Bangalore Central constituency.

I had made up my mind to not vote for anyone. When I told the officers there that I chose to not vote for anyone and wished to sign in a register with regard to the same, they stared at me in disbelief. They immediately said, in unison, that it isn’t possible. I told them that I was pretty sure that there is a law which states that I can choose to do this. They kept telling me to vote even then. Don’t waste your vote, they said.

One of officers said he knew about this law but told me that it is better to vote instead of not voting for anyone. They asked me to take about ten minutes to calm down and rethink my decision. I told them I didn’t have ten minutes. They offered me a seat and told me to relax. I was perfectly fine, speaking normally, politely. I was calm and relaxed. I just kept telling them that I would like to sign in the register and not vote for anyone. They knew I wasn’t going to move.

Another officer actually told me, just cast your vote for someone, otherwise it will cause confusion for us.

Another officer opened a book (I suppose it was the rule book with regard to elections), opened the part where it talks about electors choosing to not vote for any candidate. He handed it over to a lady officer and then asked me, one last time, are you sure you want to do this? I had already made up my mind. I told him so.

They put the ink on my finger. I put two signatures in the register where the officer had written ‘refused to vote’ against my name.

And walked out.

I don’t know what happens now. I have officially cast my vote for ‘nobody’. It’s on record. I just hope they do not misuse this vote.

The officers at the polling booth did not seem prepared for what I chose to do. When one of the officers told me to vote since it will cause confusion, I didn’t know what to say to him. He wanted me to cast my vote just because he will have extra work at the end of the day? These officers barely knew what to do. And I do not entirely blame them. Firstly, they haven’t read the rules which are there in a book, which was on their table. Secondly, they need to be educated on what to do in a situation like this.

An electoral officer cannot tell me what I should do. An electoral officer need not tell me that I should vote for ‘someone’. It is my choice. At least, I did not choose to sit at home and be indifferent. I came out and voted. I voted for nobody.

About Vaishnavi Vittal 17 Articles
Vaishnavi Vittal is a Bangalore-based journalist.

24 Comments

  1. With due respect to all the above people who have commented earlier, I have a suggestion to make, kindly put in your thoughts…
    I do agree, 49-O although a voter’s right, does not achieve anything at the moment. However with a small amendment for an option on every Electronic Voting Machine to choose “The Governor” could help.
    This would allow those of you to slam all those contesting Politicians, but at the same time ensure your Vote goes to a person who can still rule the state.

  2. Sir, being among the ones who gave their valuable comments, I would like to try to answer some of the questions you have raised.

    1. You could judge him(these are just suggestions) by his performance/dedication/determination in his previous profession. His vision/ideologies on issues that in your opinion hold national importance. Measures he/she plans to take to implement those ideologies. During the campaigns, If he concentrates on his developmental policies and measures rather than putting down the other contestants and throwing brickbats at them, he should be a good choice.

    2. I really hope so. This is a question you or the press/media should pose to the contestant.

    3&4. We have discussed this enough on this thread.

    5. Its human to err and if that human turns out to be an Indian govt employee of a lower cadre, then he’s sure to err. Its not the “very highly qualified IT engineers” who enter the names into the roll. The ones who do that are the govt employees who have minimal training on using computers, let alone being able to use the simple software tools(which is infact created by the highly qualified IT engineer).

    6. Its the duty of a responsible citizen to check if their names are enrolled in the list well in advance instead of just “searching” for it at the polling booth on election day. Once you have found your name on the roll, it takes 10 seconds to note down the part no and serial no. If you have done that there’s no question of the name doing the vanishing act.

    Every Indian citizen does have the “right to vote for none”. But its upto him/her to prudently judge the rationale behind taking such a step, consider its aftermath and then proceed.

  3. Let me put my one paise worth comment on record by asking following questions to those who made their valuable comments.
    1.How do you rate the performance of a candidate who never contested against s sitting MP or an MLA?
    2.Will the contestants assure(?)the percentage of attendance in the Assembly/Parliament/Panchayat?
    3.”Right Not to Vote” was incorporated in the Election Manual since we became a republic.No one which includes the EC,Govt,political parties educated the general public for fear of repeated re-elections.
    4.By choosing “Right Not to Vote” his/her vote is not wasted.The number will show how many people think the selection of candidates by political parties was wrong/( Independants-supported or unsupported) are like “me too in the arena”.A good percentage wins and after the elections choose to sit with ruling party mostly by getting refund of all expenses including the underwear he/she bought.
    5.How come the percentage of errors in the Voters list keep climbing up when we have the help of computers and “very highly” qualified IT engineers?
    6.How many people has been sent back home just because their name does not appear in the Voters list but have EPIC?

    Tail piece.Heard one minister went to China and the media was interviewing him.
    Q.Sir what is the name of your party?
    A.(the answer in one of the 500 and odd regional dialect)
    Q.How many members your party has in the Indian Parliament?
    A.One and I am the one.

    On 23 April 09, I slept late, ate my breakfast at 11.00AM, read Varun Gandhi’s speech at Philibit in 17 versions, slept again and when I woke up it was past 6.00PM. I also have the Right Not to Vote.

  4. A friend of mine tried to do the same thing, but he wasn’t allowed to. Because the officers on duty didn’t know what 49-O was.

  5. The following is the copy of the letter sent to the CEO & other publications. This is to enlighten the general public as to the facility provided to the voters and to BRAND all the contestants to the CATEGORY OF UNWORTHYNESS and disqualify them from contesting elections, rather, we the electorate bear with them for the next FIVE YEARS with their MISDEEDS.

    This is a FIRST call to educate the general public to unite and teach all the politicians a lesson not to contest because of their MIGHT.

    Dear Sir,

    Sub : RULE 49Q & POLLING BOOTHS

    THIS is almost a denial of DEMOCRACY, as NEITHER the Officials deputed to conduct polling have the knowledge of the above rule NOR a register is maintained as per the rule and a stamp pad to obtain the THUMB IMPRESSION in it.

    I am a citizen of Bangalore Central with part # 119, Sl.no.662 and polling station at Chinmaya High School. I went to exercise my franchise at around 1415 hrs. and opted ‘NOT TO VOTE’, as non of the contestants were worthy enough to be elected.

    As I requested for the exercise of the above rule, the returning officer was totally unaware of it and she had to go through the handbook at that juncture and the waiting voters had to bear with their snail speed get going, which irritated the waiting voters.

    Finally, as no register was available, she took the signature with name and contact number WITHOUT my THUMB IMPRESSION on the slip and I was allowed to walk out.

    If this is the way of adopting a rule, why not a simple method of adding one more button as NON OF THE ABOVE / PRESIDENTS RULE / INVALID which will be easier and many would opt to exercise it in SECRET, which is the MOST ESSENTIAL PART OF DEMOCRATIC VOTING.

    This arises a doubt in me, as to whether it is recorded OR misused, as I was denied an acknowledgement and even the mark of ink was not affixed to finger.

    Thanking You Sir, in anticipation,

    Sincerely Yours,

    Sd/-

    Date : 23 04 09.

  6. I had also decided not to vote. I did asked the polling officials at the school of RHBcolony Mahadevapura. They also did stared at me. Their gaze told me help them by me voting to any tom dick harry (37 in all) I did it most reluctantly because none of them would care for the improvement of the people’s woes. IN RHB colony water supply is so erratic perhaps it is at the pleasure of the waterman, but influential persons do get water regularly because I have not seen them or their family searching for water with ‘bindige’

  7. Hemanth, the discussion has transformed to whether “voting for no one” is a prudent decision or not. And yes I was referring to the rule 49-O under the Conduct of Election Rules -1961 as mentioned in vaishnavi’s lawmin link and rightly quoted by you.

  8. Guys please understand there is nothing called 49-0 in the constitution !!!!
    Where, then, is this “49-O”? Though the Constitution of India does not have a “Section 49-O”, The Conduct of Election Rules – 1961 has a rule 49-O under Part IV (Voting in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituenceis). The relevant rule is reproduced below:
    49-O. Elector deciding not to vote.-If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.

  9. People should read genuine websites and official documents to get to know the right information about the law before believing it. In this case the hoax part is where the issue of repolling or cancellation of candidature comes in.

    Every action needs to have an intent. I’m sorry I dont see any here. Is it that you are trying to make a statement? Is it that you want to force them to field better candidates 5 yrs from now when the chances of them remembering that someone invoked 49-O itself is very bleak? As divya put it please do enlighten us.

    My suggestion is we should look at more practical solutions. Elect the best among the contestants and actively keep track of his activities through various mechanisms like RTI. Make a group in your constituency and protest if you find any irregularities, lack of commitment, corruption etc. Be actively involved rather than saying that you did not find anyone worthy and sit back and relax.

  10. I totally agree with you Prasanna. I want to see at least one of these folks who have gone and voted for 49-O daring to stand up in the election themselves, at least they can be assured of my vote.

  11. Everyone seems to be getting carried away by the wave of ‘change’. Change, we need. But in what way? If you really think that all the 37(I derived the number from Ashok’s comment above) aren’t worthy, then why don’t you be the 38th? Nobody is stopping you right? What’s the point in being a non-entity and talking about making a point? I think you should have voted for either one of the 37 there or be the 38th.

  12. Ohh I forgot to add, how do you know your vote is not misused? How difficult is it for anyone to tear up your no-vote record and have someone else vote instead of you in your name? (No vote is an out-of-band mechanism, you can’t register it in your EVM AND its on paper).

    You are only making it easier to misuse your vote since currently the no vote mechanism doesn’t come with anonymity.S o earlier where people would have to search for who didn’t show up and have others vote in their name, you are actually going and telling them, hey I didn’t choose anyone (make use of the EVM), so feel free to have someone else do it for me.

  13. Hi Srikanth

    You certainly seem to think that 49-O is helping elect the RIGHT candidate. And you are also saying you have read up on it. Maybe you should enlighten us then, on how this 49-O is helping you elect the RIGHT candidate? Else all other discussion is irrelevant.

  14. I completely support this. Even i did vote for 49-O.

    I know that my vote may not be useful but it is certainly not misused. It is my vote and my decision to vote for a candidate or vote for NOBODY as per 49-O. When there are no good candidates, why chose them?

    People should read genuine websites and official documents to get to know the right information about the law before calling it as a hoax.

    Youth in India should certainly not vote for 49-O but what if there are no options? Perhaps! The only hope we have and looking forward is to elect the RIGHT candidate. Will that happen? who is Mr/Mrs. Right?

    We are in a liberal democratic society and we need to chose our leaders! Every election looks like we are trying meet their demands. It has to be the other way round!

  15. Hmm.. Though you did waste the vote, which can put down to ignorance rather than anything else, I appreciate your intentions.

    The only use of 49-O that I can see is when a whole constituency is united in voting for nobody unless their basic needs, neglected for years, are fulfilled. But then, that’s more cinematic.

  16. Someone found an exciting new method in the system and set out to try it and get some limelight. So that she can write a story on it and highlight that it was an “adventurous” event! If you are posing a problem also please provide a logical and feasible solution to resolve it. I respect your opinion that you did not find any of the candidates worthy of your precious vote (Assuming that you have studied the profiles of all the 37 candidates who contested from bangalore central). But then voting for no one is not a solution. Its a bigger problem than the problem at hand. If your defence is that “the candidature of the contestants will be removed” I would like you to validate the statement as the lawmin link that you have provided has no such statement. Also to quote from wiki – “A hoax has been circulating which claims that if the ’49-O’ votes more than those of the winning candidate, then that poll will be canceled and will have to be re-polled. Furthermore, it claims that the contestants will be banned and they cannot contest the re-polling for their life time.” check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/49-O You should have rather chosen the best among the contestants and voted for him/her. So what is it that you have achieved by your invoking of 49-O? One less valid vote to worsen the already pathetic voting turnout. Congratulations!

  17. Dear Vaishnavi,
    I admire the fact that you atleast registered your vote. However it is really sad that only 43% of the elegible population voted. And by yours and possibly few others step to use 49-O, the effective voting percentage would further decrease. A candidate may need only about 10-20% of the people of the constituency to support him in order to win. This has been a very disappointing election especially when we consider that the majority of the urban population to be well aware and educated.

  18. Hi Vaishnavi

    I agree. Even I thought so. But then I chose to vote for the least evil of all. Because not voting for anybody is simply not a practical solution. What is the conclusion of it? How is the vote being used for anything? How is it helping the democratic process? How different is it, practically, from not going out there to vote at all. End of the day, except for the fact that you actually went to the polling booth, really, its not made any difference. If you didn’t go to vote too, it would have been the same end result.
    These are some questions we have to carefully consider before we take this step. Just my 2p on it.

  19. Dear Divya
    I chose to vote for nobody because I did not think any of the candidates deserved to be voted to power. It is another matter that this system does not allow me to maintain anonymity in the booth.

  20. I don’t really know whom the “no vote” helps! What would happen if everyone chose not to vote for anybody and nobody is elected? A re-election. More wastage of public money. What are we trying to prove when we exercise this option, I never understood.

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