Deepanker Kaul
Published in

Deepanker Kaul

Why I voted for No one

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Today was a very special day for me, for it was the first time in my life that I cast my vote. I’m a little late to the party due to various technical issues, regarding my voter id but let’s ignore that for now.

After voting, while I was on my way back home, I decided to upload a photo of it and as expected it was met with a swarm of messages asking for my voting preference. But as soon as I disclosed that I voted NOTA (None Of The Above) the response was somewhere on the spectrum ranging from contempt to shock.

“You wasted your vote.”

“It would have been better to not vote. Should have stayed at home.”

“Why did you even vote, when you did not vote for anyone.”

The point that I kept making was that voting and picking a candidate are two different processes in my mind, of varying nature.

You can’t fix stupid, but you can vote it out.
Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

I had to vote!

That’s my duty as a citizen. If I don’t participate in the voting process, I’m basically apathetic to the democratic exercise of choosing a government.

In that case, all the time when I was following news or reading articles, or formerly listening to TV debates, was nothing but an exercise to entertain me. The discussions about the state of the economy and the nature of the polity are a farce if you don’t express your views.

The only two ways that I know of for making my voice heard are protesting and voting. I’m not able to leave my work to protest (physically), but I can surely vote. I even get a holiday to do something that took me less than half an hour.

Discussing and debating politics without voting is worse than discussing about movies. In the case of movies, I’m at the very least buying a ticket and hence there is a feedback mechanism to identify the serious stakeholders. But how do you gauge the seriousness of a citizen and his views if he isn’t voting?

I’m interested in US politics and often debate about it as well, but I can’t and don’t vote there. What distinguishes me from a US citizen and hence the seriousness of my views of US politics versus that of a US citizen is that it’s her country and her voice matters. If you’re not voting, are you really a citizen?

If you’re not voting, are you really a citizen?

Choosing a candidate

Now to the second part of the process. I was clear that I was going to vote, so the next obvious step was to choose the candidate. I looked up the candidates in the fray and noticed that due to the election being fought on coalition basis, two of my preferred parties were not contesting. I’m very uncomfortable with their coalition partners, so the next obvious metric was to look for individual candidates.

I looked up all the candidates and the two main candidates had their fair share of criminal cases and dodgy pasts. I tried to look up other candidates and found almost no information about them.

Even regarding these two ‘mainstream’ candidates, I had no information whatsoever about the policies they were supporting or even the stand of their parties. I have a funny anecdote for it.

I was travelling with two of my friends yesterday who complained that the were sick of being bombarded with ads from a certain political party. I on the other hand have not seen even a single election related ad. I guess this is because I have stopped using Google Chrome as my phone browser.

Therefore, if the candidates are not even willing to put enough effort to get their message to me, relying solely on data mined by Google, why should I bother for such disinterested candidates who make absolutely no effort to get my vote.

Why NOTA?

Now the final question. While I was in the booth with the EVM in front of me with six names printed on it, I had a moment of dilemma. I would not get a chance again, so do I really want to decide based on what feels right or wrong today?

My vote, just like a million others today, won’t just decide what happens for the next five years. We live in the information age, of data and numbers. In fact, I make a living out of it. That made me realize, if I vote for any of the candidates just because I don’t like the other candidates, how can someone looking at this data years later find out that I did not want any of the candidates. How would even the candidate know that I did not vote for her, but against her rival? How do i expect them to improve if i don’t give them an honest feedback.

I understand that NOTA has almost no effect on the outcome of the elections. It does not affect the candidates or the parties that were sweating it out today. But just like others voted keeping in mind the next five years, I voted looking far ahead than that.

I voted to register my protest. I voted to underscore the fact that I won’t be forced to make a bad choice by giving me an option between bad and worse. We know how that ends, they’ll come up on TV screens and shout that we voted for them, even when we didn’t want to.

I voted NOTA today so that a month from now or maybe even a couple of years later, someone looking at the election data realizes that there was a voter who came to the booth to express his dissatisfaction and his frustration, even if it did not make a difference in the short term.

I’m not an indifferent citizen, I care about my nation deeply to sit at home on a day when our fate is getting sealed in EVMs. But I don’t wish to ‘waste’ my vote either, by choosing someone because he’s not the other guy.

I will vote for someone when they earn my trust and my vote, when they say they want to bring in real change and not just change names of schemes or roads, keeping the status quo intact, till then I’m happy to struggle. I am happy to be None of the Others.

Jai Hind

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