None of the above instead of best of the worst?

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: When Karnataka goes to the polls in a couple of months from now, the voter will stand before Electronic Voting Machines which have BJP, BSP, Congress, JDS and a couple of other parties and independents marked besides the buttons in front of her.

But should she also be provided with an another option—“None of the Above”—if she thinks none of the candidates or parties in the fray are deserving of her support?

The “None of the Above” option has been much discussed in academic circles in recent times, largely as a device to get our parties to put up more credible candidates. Chapter and verse has been quoted to show that this can be done, and that this can be a good way for the voter to tell parties what she thinks of them and their candidates.

But it has never been tried. The political situation in the State is tailormade to test it out, instead of once again condemning voters to pick the “best of the worst”, as has become the case with candidates with unknown sources of funds and well known cases of crime vying for our trust despite the model code of conduct and the mandatory affidavits.

Look at the emerging poll scenario. The voters has absolutely no choice but to choose from one of the three mainline parties, namely the Congress, BJP and Janata Dal (S), the three parties who, since 2004, have disgraced themselves by their relentless pursuit of the politics of opportunism, caring two hoots for the opinion of the voters.

The mandate was clear in the last assembly elections. The voters had rejected the Congress’ claims for a fresh lease of life, and wanted the party to cool its heels on the opposition benches. The voters preferred the BJP but did not trust it fully to occupy the throne on its own. And the JDS was relegated to play third fiddle, not fit to be the main opposition party either.

The manner in which the three parties twisted and distorted the mandate, by hook or by crook, is too recent to be repeated. Suffice it to say that the voters were taken for a ride and for nearly four years the State had to do without any effective government, which has extracted a heavy price in slowing down the process of development.

Yet, the same three parties, who unabashedly and shamelessly abused the trust of the people, are now seeking our trust.

In the minds of many voters, each of the three main parties may not be fully deserving of our support given their signal disservice, but despite the facade of democracy, there is no real choice before the voter. The only choice that is available before her is a change of combination of her choice!

Instead of voting for the best, she is forced to cast her vote for the best among the worst, a party which in her eyes is less dangerous and less unscrupulous. But can this be a real expression of choice? Or is it a forced choice, which only cosmetically alters the political DNA of the State while retaining its worst genes and chromosomes?

Since staying away from the election is no solution because participating is a sacred duty cast on voters, why not give voters an opportunity to indicate that none of the names fit the bill so that we can have a better estimate of the standing of the parties and their candidates in the eyes of the people?