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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Indian Elections ... Chennai electorate ... EVMs and NOTA

General Elections are on … in the biggest democracy of the World ..  a Senior gentleman in Office today asked ‘what is election ? – and how could somebody cast their vote’ (indicating that he is so young and not yet eligible to vote yet ……) … Any person who is a citizen of India and above 18 years of age is eligible to enroll as a voter in the electoral rolls. Voting will take place in all 543 parliamentary constituencies  and results will be declared on 16 May. 

Voting is not a right, it is a duty – do vote without fail … in Tamil Nadu, ‘24th Apr 2014’ is the day of Election ~ Do vote without fail. Elections are interesting ~ I have been a representative of candidate when manual counting used to take place – that also underwent many changes – there used to huge boxes for each candidate in to which votes polled for them would be put and would be count round-wise; sometime they combined votes of various polling booths so that parties may not know which area voted for whom……..

A general election in nine phases, from 7 April to 12 May 2014 is touted to be longest of them all.  It is not so. The first General elections were held between 25 October 1951 and 21 February 1952. Although the majority of votes were cast in February 1952, voters in the state of Himachal Pradesh were given the chance to vote in October 1951 because the heavy snowfall, primitive roads, and mountainous terrain of that state made it likely that polling stations would be largely unreachable during a February election.

Can you imagine the size of the electorate… According to the Election Commission of India, the electoral population in 2014 is 81.45 crores, the largest in the world. ……… just to give an idea in 1957 (2nd Lok Sabha) ~ there were only 2 constituencies in the Chennai city (Madras)

In Madras North – an Independent SCC Anthony Pillai secured 86139 votes an defeated Indian National Congress nominee T Changalvarayan; In Madras South – TT Krishnamachari secured 81390 and defeated P Balasubramania Mudaliar who got 71284 votes.  In 2009, there were 11,62,062 voters in South Chennai – AIADMK’s C Rajendran got 308567 while RS Bharathy of DMK got 275632.  

This time besides the names of the candidates and symbols, there would be one more button ….. the NOTA option ?!?!?

Is it a creation of technology.  Firstpost reports that popular messaging app ‘WhatsApp’  has now crossed 500 million users, justifying the whopping $19 billion paid by Facebook.  It is stated that the no. has doubled in Jan 14. The instant messaging app had also revealed that it processes 50 billion messages on an average every day.  According to its co-founder, they have grown fastest in countries like Brazil, India, Mexico, and Russia,  and  users are also sharing more than 700 million photos and 100 million videos every single day. The post further  claims that these 500 million people are not only registered members but also active users. Indians are given to talking as evidenced by what you observe in streets, in bus, in train, in railway stations and everywhere – whether they are walking or driving or ………..  

0n the political scenario, Congress  has attacked Aam Aadmi Party for Shazia Ilmi's remarks alleging AAP has "scant regard for the Constitution and for the law".  many leaders have also risen to defend the man who once said ‘mango people in banana republic’…. Priyanka Gandhi had  said she strongly feels about attacks on her husband Robert Vadra and that people should refrain from personal attacks;  Congress has been targeting Narendra Modi on a variety of issues including his marital status.

Money and liquor seems to be  lining the electoral trail this election, if the latest figures of the Election Commission are anything to go by. A staggering Rs 240 crore in unaccounted cash has been seized by the poll panel so far, with Andhra Pradesh topping the list with Rs102 crore. A mind boggling 1.32 crore (13 million) litres of liquor, mostly country-made, was seized, pointing to the intention of political parties to lure voters.

There could be times when one feels that ‘none of the candidates seeking votes is worthy of getting elected’ – the educated class reportedly stays away from elections – which is wrong … now there is the additional option - NOTA (none of the above) - being available in electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the first time in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections.  NOTA was passed in a landmark judgment when Supreme Court of India took into account the need for NOTA option while voting on 27 September 2009.

None of the Above (NOTA), also known as "against all" or a "scratch" vote, is a ballot option in some jurisdictions ororganizations, designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system. It is based on the principle that consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election, just as they can by voting no on ballot questions. Interestingly the neighbouring  Bangladesh introduced this option  in 2008 & Pak too flirted with this in 2013. 

However, the "none of the above" (NOTA) button does not give you the 'the right to reject' all candidates. According to former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi, the Supreme Court in its order has just given "the right to register a negative opinion." He said the new provision does not mean that all candidates in a constituency stand rejected or defeated if the number of NOTA votes exceeds the number garnered by the highest vote-getter. "Even if there are 99 NOTA votes out of a total of 100, and candidate X gets just one vote, X is the winner, having obtained the only valid vote. The rest will be treated as invalid or 'no votes'," Quraishi said in an opinion piece in The Indian Express.

Prior to NOTA there was ‘Rule 49-O’  which was the procedure to be followed when a valid voter decides not to cast his vote, and decides to record this fact.  Till now, the ballot paper or electronic voting machine (EVM) showed only the list of candidates, and hence  a voter could not record his vote under Section 49-O directly, but had to inform the presiding officer at the election booth. This violated the secrecy of the ballot and was cumbersome.  Now EVMs come with the NOTA option, which I understand will be last button !

The present election is by EVM (Electronic Voting Machine)  which reduces the time in casting a vote and more so in counting them.  My favourite writer Srirangam Rangarajan (Sujatha) was associated with the designing of EVM   by  Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).  EVM was first used on a experimental basis in some booths of North Paravur in Ernakulam District of Kerala.   

So, in Tamilnadu, the first duty of the day for you tomorrow – is to head for the Polling Booth and cast your vote.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

23rd Apr 2o14. 

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