ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The 'None of the Above' Option

It is unlikely that providing Indian voters with a "no vote" option will either improve voter participation or contribute to a decriminalisation of politics. Voter turnout is not an issue in the country, since over the long term it has been showing an upward trend. Criminalisation is the result of social and economic factors, and the nomination of candidates with a criminal background may not change merely by giving voters the option of saying "no". In countries with a no vote option, such votes add up to an insignifi cant number.

Campaigns to “cleanse” the political system have gained considerable ground in the last few years in urban India. These have strengthened with the nearing of assembly elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as also the general elections scheduled for 2014. Coupled with this are attempts, both institutional and movement-driven, to make democracy in India more participatory.

It may be useful to start with a brief look at the legal history of the various moves towards this cleansing of the electoral system. In July this year the Supreme Court ruled that parliamentarians and state legislators who were convicted of serious crimes, meaning carrying a jail term of two years or more, would be barred from contesting elections. The Court struck down Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act which allowed convicted members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies to continue in office while their appeals journeyed through courts often for indefinite periods. The government, backed by support from almost all political parties, had introduced a bill in Parliament to override this Supreme Court judgment and then passed the ill-fated ordinance which now stands withdrawn.

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