Don’t wish to vote? Say it with Code 49-O

May 4th, 2009 - 4:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 4 (IANS) If you are dissatisfied with the work done by political leaders and believe none of the candidates deserve your vote, then don’t just sit at home during Thursday’s Lok Sabha polls. Come out and let election officials know just that.
Like the 40 odd villages of Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, you too can go to the polling booth and express your disapproval by exercising your right not to vote.

According to the provision 49-O in the Conduct of Elections Act, 1969, on election day, you can go to the polling booth, and after confirming your identity and getting your finger marked, tell the presiding election officer that you don’t wish to vote.

Chapter 13 of the election officer’s manual clearly says: “If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters (form 17 A) and put his signaturehumb impression on the register, decides not to vote, he shall not be forced or compelled to record his vote.”

Jiten Jain of the youth organisation Youth for Equality, who had led a mass awareness campaign on the provision of 49-O in the Delhi assembly elections, said: “This time too we have distributed 500,000 pamphlets making people aware of 49-O.”

“During the last assembly elections, we had started an SMS campaign and had nearly 100,000 people registered with us. However, not many actually exercised this right,” Jain told IANS.

He is, however, confident that this time many more people will exercise this right.

“Nearly 150,000 people in 40 villages of the Moradabad district in Uttar Pradesh had decided to boycott the elections because they were angry with the poor work done by the politicians. A proper road, which had been promised to them, was not fulfilled.

“However, instead of boycotting the polls, we told them to use the 49-O provision. Now the panchayats in the villages have decided to use this provision in the May 7 polls,” Jain said.

In Delhi, Harish Mehra, a PR professional living in east Delhi, said none of the candidates standing for the elections this time give him the assurance of an ideal leader who will work for the place.

“Voting has always meant choosing the bad from among the worse. The candidates we chose have never really done any major development work. But you have to draw the line at times. After the assembly elections last year I came to know of the 49-O provision and this time I will use that,” Mehra said.

“I don’t want to vote for a person I don’t believe in,” he added.

Although little known, awareness campaigns on the provision by NGOs have generated a lot of interest among people. And though the Election Commission did not compile data on people who used 49-O in the Delhi assembly elections, this time they will.

Satbir Silas Bedi, Delhi’s chief electoral officer, said: “Compilation of data on how many people used 49-O is of no use to us. We keep a tab on these numbers just to keep our records straight.

“For instance, if 70 people came to register themselves in the polling booth but the electronic voting machine (EVM) recorded just 60 votes, questions may be raised on our credibility. So we have the list of the 10 who refused to vote in the 17 A register,” she said.

She said giving the option “None of the above” on the EVM which will actually record one’s vote to no one - a matter still pending in the Supreme Court - will be better.

“However, this time there has been a lot of interest about 49-O. So we will compile this data this time,” Bedi told IANS.

Voting for Delhi’s seven parliamentary constituencies in Delhi will held in the fourth phase of Lok Sabha polls May 7. According to an Election Commission official, 11 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in 11,348 polling booths in Delhi.

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