CHENNAI: Several voters exercised the ‘no vote’ option as per rule 49 (O) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, during the Lok Sabha polls here on Wednesday.
Kris Dev of Tamil Nadu Election Watch – an initiative of the Association for Democratic Reforms – said that this time voter awareness of this option had improved and several of them used it as a means to express their resentment against the political process of the time.
RTI (Right to Information Act) activist V. Madhav exercised the option at a polling booth in Lakshmi Nagar, Valasaravakkam.
He said that initially the polling agents tried convincing him to vote for one of the candidates. But, “I insisted on registering a no vote,” he said.
Bharath Ram, an architect who cast his vote in Pondy Bazaar said that he too registered a ‘no vote’ as a means to express his disillusionment with mainstream politics by registering his name at the booth and refusing to vote thereafter.
V. Suresh of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties said that the very fact that voters had to register their names to exercise the ‘no vote’ option revealed such voters’ identity. He suggested that the option be made available in electronic voting machines..
For nearly 60 residents of Manappakkam, Kolappakkam, Gerugambakkam, Tarappakkam and Kovoor villages of the Sriperumbudur Lok Sabha constituency, the 49 (O) option was a means to protest the acquisition of land for the airport expansion project.
Brinda Brighton of United People’s Forum for Survival – a forum of residents affected by the acquisition – said that though nearly 5,000 residents lived in these five villages, few opted for the 49 (O) option.
“Many feared revealing their identity this way,” she said. Another Valasaravakkam resident, who wished not to be named, said that he ended up casting his vote though he wished to use the 49 (O) option as the polling agents were not helpful.
Residents of Kannadapalayam near Tambaram who had earlier given a call to boycott the Lok Sabha polls, said that they wanted to exercise the ‘no vote’ option but found that the officials on poll duty did not have the requisite forms.
(Originally published in The Hindu, Tamil Nadu edition, dated May 14, 2009. Two other reporters P.Oppili and K.Manikandan gave inputs to this story)