A call to abstain, the unchecked farce
The Indian presidential election is on at the moment.
Nine parties belonging to the UNPA will not bother to exercise their vote. Does this mean that the people they represent have no opinion on the candidates ? How can they not perform their only duty as members of the electoral college ? Does the word “electoral college” mean anything to them ?
Okay, let me slow down here : I fully understand that anyone should have the right to reject all candidates. My only gripe is the way this right is sought to be exercised. There are some legal issues discussed at the Law and Other Things blog. While this blog is not as well read, or as well connected to the political structure and media, we take the liberty of making some layman observations. Legal points like the nature of a “whip” and disqualification under the 10th schedule are well taken, but they do not complete the electoral framework. They are only part of it. We must put in place concrete modalities that give the spirit of the law some meaning. This is where the EC has failed miserably. Just setting forth loose strictures about desired behaviour amounts to nothing if there are no tangible checks and balances in place.
However, they cannot issue any whip to their members to vote in a particular manner or not to vote in the election leaving them with no choice, as that would tantamount to the offence of undue influence within the meaning of Section 171C of the IPC.
Yeah right, whip or no whip. If a MP/MLA shows up instead of staying at home, his political future in the party is toast. Normally, our politicians do not take such risks unless major financial / vote bank issues are involved. So, the above stricture is meaningless.
The tragedy is that it is to so easy to fix
The presidential election is a secret ballot, but it is easy to ascertain whether a member of the electoral college even showed up to vote. To the extent of detecting abstention, it is not a secret ballot at all. Yeah, you just pulled the rug from underneath the process of the presidential election. Any amount of legal scaffolding cannot save it.
To fix this, a simple mechanism can be set in place.
1. Make it compulsory for all member of the electoral college to cast their vote.
2. Allow an option in the ballot papers beside the 1st choice and 2nd choice, stating “I wish to waive my constitutional right to vote as a member of the electoral college”.
3. Do not allow purposeful damage such as tearing up of ballot papers, pouring ink on it, vandalism to the polling area, or indeed any such action that can be used to demonstrate publicly the waiver to their party leadership. The official in the booth can easily ensure this.
Now, lets roll.
With this simple rule, an AIADMK / TDP/ JDS MLA can go in and silently vote or waive without fear of certain retribution from the party leadership.