Chopra now casts a 'No Vote', and he isn't alone in this. Disillusioned, over 250 residents of Andheri (East) have been using the strongest tool available within electoral democracy - to register their protest vote against the system.
Confirming that the citizen's No-Vote gets officially recorded as a vote not cast, thereby preventing bogus voting, Arun Prasad, the poll observer for Sewree, said, "Every citizen is within his right to refuse casting a vote, getting his vote registered.
There is a separate Election Commission circular that specifies so."
Says James John, the AGNI coordinator for Andheri (East) who hasn't voted in the past seven elections (he started in 2002), "It's simple. If anyone gave you rotten tomatoes, would you compromise and buy them, even if sold at a lesser price? If not, then why would you want to compromise on the candidates and vote for someone even if you aren't convinced?" "As we do not have good candidates, casting your vote in any one's favour would be a compromise with democracy," added Ravi Nair, another AGNI member who along with John is wooing non-voters. While over 250 people registered a 'no vote' in Andheri in the Lok Sabha elections early this year, citizens from the Mahalakshmi area had consulted him before the '09 elections.
"About 15,000 voters there registered a No Vote," says a surprised John.
But wouldn't 'no-votes' mar the spirit of democracy.
"Though the candidates are elected by us and not by their political parties, post-election they only go by their party whip on policy decisions. Did any MP ever consult and respect public opinion while passing the nuclear deal last year?" The solution, say the activists, would be to put up citizens' candidates. Says Nair, "We want a candidate who will ask for our opinion and respect it after being elected. That will be possible only when more and more ordinary citizens get elected." Till then, vote without actually doing so. What the rulebook says Under Section 49 (0) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, if an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form 17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon, as required in the sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decides not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.