As Tamil Nadu goes to the polls this week, we were deluged by questions from inquisitive readers about many things, none of which pertained to elections or politics. So, in the true spirit of responsible democracy, we stepped into the breach, and made up the queries as well as the answers in a truer spirit of irresponsible journalism that this column sedulously practises.
Why do I have to vote?
At the core of a robust democracy — originating from the Greek terms ‘demo’ and ‘cracy’ meaning ‘they will join it in English and make some word denoting something’ —- is a fair and open electoral system, which is so vital to form a modern government that will give employment to the otherwise unemployable chaps in the Election Commission.
Elections symbolize the might of people when they stand united for a common purpose. For example, if you feel your neighbourhood needs a flyover to help ease traffic congestion, you in your individual capacity cannot do anything about it. But when you join forces with like-minded persons in your area and reach out to your elected representative, he or she will listen because from a nameless individual without any power or position, you have, through the strength of the collective, now become part of an all-important vote-bank. This is the quintessence of democracy. So, your elected representative will not only help build the flyover but also go one step further by putting his/her name to the structure that is basically constructed with funds collected from people like you. This is the quintessence of shamelessness.
What do I have to do when I find somebody else has already cast my vote?
You must find that person, thank him and come back home to continue watching TV.
No, my question is what do I have to do cast my vote that someone else has already?
The Election Commission rules for this are pretty clear. If some impersonator has already cast your vote, the onus of proving that you are indeed you lies solely with you.
Technically, as things are in India now, it is easier for someone else to prove that he is you than it is for you. In general, to establish that a person exists you need not the person, but plenty of documents.
What are the documents that can help me cast my vote?
The voter ID card, created primarily for the purpose, is a fail-proof document to get a telephone connection. For actual voting, the two most important things is a) your name should be in the electoral rolls b) you should know the date of polling.
The point is even without the voter ID card you can vote. For instance, personally speaking, my name is registered in the electoral rolls, even though my voter ID card is still to reach me. But using my passport, which has my home town address or my driving licence, which has my previous residence address, or my ration card, which I am not eligible to use in the PDS shops or the Aadhaar card, which the Supreme Court has clarified that there is no need for, I can vote.
In the past, if you, for whatever reason, found the candidates standing in your constituency to be unacceptable and not measuring up to your expectations, you a) did not vote at all or b) voted for all (you went to the polling booth and defiantly stamped over all the candidates on the ballot paper thereby making your vote invalid). As you can see, both are acts of irresponsibility that fell beyond the ken of polling process.
In the event, stepped in the Election Commission to come up with the important option where you could continue to be irresponsible within the ken of poll process. It introduced the idea of 49 (O), which allowed you go to the presiding officer in the booth and inform him that you did not wish to vote for any of the candidates in the fray. And you could formally record your opinion in a prescribed form and hand it to the presiding officer, who, adhering to the clearly-laid rules, would carefully throw it in the dustbin later. Or that is how it seemed to work. Because 49 (O) wasn’t taken into account at all.
But now, after an important verdict from the Supreme Court on the matter last year, NOTA (None Of The Above) option has been formally incorporated in the ballot papers/EVMs. Your ‘no vote to anyone’ will now be part of the official polled numbers, in that it will be recorded and totaled along with that of the others who had exercised NOTA option and — this is why democracy is better than any other form of governance — not taken into consideration at all.
NOTA, in short, allows you to be democratically irresponsible.
In the hypothetical situation of ‘NOTA’ option getting votes higher than the ones polled by any of the candidates, what happens?
The Election Commission will declare the winner through the Duckworth and Lewis method. This kind of ensures that no South African will ever make it to the Indian legislatures or Parliament.
This election will see the highest number of first-time voters. Will this lead to a generational tilt towards youth in our politics and policies thereof? And will youth have a bigger say in things to come in the future?
When you are old you run the risk of becoming senile. But when you are young, you run the bigger and dangerous risk of being a Bieber fan.
Don’t you think you were a tad cynical in all your answers so far?
Well, this is the real — and I honestly mean it — benefit of having a healthy democracy. You can get away with these things.
Also, you can’t vote me out, as journalism has no place for democracy. Which is all the more reason why you must try and safeguard it at least elsewhere.