NGOs cheer verdict; parties divided

NGOs cheer verdict; parties divided

Political parties and leaders were divided but activists and former election commissioners hailed the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict on “Right to Reject” hoping that it would lead to cleansing of electoral politics. 

While some political leaders raised questions about Supreme Court jurisdiction in making such rules, others welcomed the verdict. 

Among the naysayers were CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, Congress’ Rashid Alvi, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee and former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) T N Seshan but they were outnumbered as a host of election commissioners, activists and parties, some reluctantly, supported the move.

Trilochan Sastry, a founder member of the Association of Democratic Rights and a professor at IIM-Bangalore, said it is a “wonderful judgement” that will make citizens happy.

“This is one step at a time. This will start exposing parties and they will be forced to field good candidates. We also hope that this will result in increase of voting percentage,” Sastry told Deccan Herald.

Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi said it is a “tsunami” for parties as it can break up vote-bank politics. 

The Congress was cautious in its reaction with its chief spokesperson Ajay Maken saying that the judgment needs to be studied to see if the apex court has taken all aspects like overwhelming number of negative votes into account as reacting on the spur of the moment could be a little premature.

His party colleague Rashid Alvi was more direct when he said implementation of the verdict will be difficult and it may create many problems.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wrote a lengthy blog in support of the verdict. “Friends, for a very long time, I have called for a provision for a right to reject in elections. Without it, there was something lacking in the system,” he wrote even as he pitched for compulsory voting. 

However, other BJP leaders like Mukthar Abbas Naqvi and Meenakshi Lekhi were guarded in their reactions.

The happy lot were former CECs, except T N Seshan, who have been demanding that this, among other reforms, be adopted during their tenure. Former CEC Navin Chawla called it a huge step in ensuring a better electoral system while his predecessor N Gopalaswami hoped that it would lead to right to reject a particular candidate. 

The Election Commission had, way back in 2001, recommended the right to reject option.CPM Polit Bureau said the right to reject is only a minor aspect of the issue of reforms and these matters are being dealt with in a “piecemeal way” by the judiciary when what is required is comprehensive electoral reforms, including the issue of proportional representation, urgent steps to curb money and muscle power. This must be discussed and adopted by Parliament.

Yechury was more vocal in opposing the move describing this as an “abnormal situation” that needs to be corrected. He questioned the decision saying neither the judiciary nor the Election Commission participates in the elections and without even talking to participants, “deciding like this is not a good sign”. 

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