The “NOTA” Conundrum!!!

The country now is in election mode. Well, almost perennially India suffers from election fever. If it’s not the Lok Sabha elections which come now a days once in 5 years (thankfully), we have state elections in the 30+ states usually in clusters every 6-9 months. Just when we came out of the Bihar election grip, we have presently 4 states namely Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Assam in the cusp of elections. Though sitting in Mumbai I am far off from the theatre of action, I can sense a common feeling atleast in 3 states one that is of despondency! Except for Assam, the despondency arises out of frustration of making a choice when there is actually none!  My reading is purely based on what I read, see, watch and deduct from the media. Thankfully apart from the mainstream media we also have the social media which provides additional insights.

In Tamil Nadu, since the demise of MGR in late eighties, people have been alternating between the two Dravidian parties – DMK and AIADMK. DMK was thrown out in the last state elections after public realized that they couldn’t keep pace with the complex family tree of its leader Karunanidhi. They opted for the simpler “2 leaves” only to realize that grass is greener on the other side. Though AIADMK started off well with the Amma branded social interventions, in the last 2/3 years Governance in Tamil Nadu has been Ram ke barose! Ace historian and author Ramachandra Guha once mentioned that Tamil Nadu had always a much disciplined bureaucracy which ensured efficient and smooth running of the Government. But this alone cannot substitute for executive vision and direction for the state. That too in today’s age of competitive federalism. Within India it is clearly a zero sum game. One state’s loss is certainly another’s gain.  With its leader medically not fit and the second rung leaders mentally not fit and only keen to beat their own set standards of sycophancy, the ruling party AIADMK has certainly failed its voters. The irony is, the other choice which people used to have namely the DMK – the situation is worse. An ailing leader in his 90’s who is unable to keep his house/family in order is hardly an inspiration for people who expect to put their state in order. Apart from these, there are 2/3 more fronts who are at best competing for the consolation prize! BJP has no local leadership to boast of, Captain’s party leads only in providing comic relief and PMK is at best a caste based outfit with limited reach. This is the first time I noticed in Tamil Nadu a sense of lack of interest among common people like Taxi drivers,… on the poll outcome!!! They only wish that whoever comes doesn’t rock the boat. So the expectations are quite timid.

West Bengal is another tale of irony. People there voted “in” Mamata who promised Poriborton by over throwing the Communists who had an iron clutch over the state for 30 odd years. 5 years hence, the only Poriborton seems to be the change in colour of paint in public buildings – from Red to Blue!!! Otherwise the Mamata led Trinamool Congress is another communist outfit with a Congress name! The state is struggling to attract industrial investments inspite of having an erudite industry friendly economist as Finance Minister. With this situation, the choice before the Bengalis is a tough one! Whether to give Mamata more time for bringing in Poriborton or to change themselves and go back to the Communist regime. The Communists who have smartly tied up with Congress in the state with a fervent hope that Arithmetic may help where Chemistry fails do not yet have a visible leader in the state. The idiom of “choosing between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” doesn’t need any better example!  BJP which is the 3rd choice is an emerging force in WB. Still emerging.

In God’s Own Country, God only knows what will happen. A state which routinely toggles between the Congress led UDF and Communists led LDF by that logic has to turn “left” this time over. I feel that frankly in a state that is kept afloat by foreign inward remittances, the people don’t care who rules the state. So they just alternate between the Congress and the Left.  But with oil economies struggling with oil prices hitting new lows in the last 2 years, the remittances have also hit new lows. Irony died a dog’s death when Congress which is in an understanding with the Left in WB is fighting the same Left in Kerala!!! Is there a 3rd option? Here again BJP is an emerging option. But early days yet to give a shot at capturing power.

So under the circumstances, the best choice for the voters in all these state seem to be to press the “NOTA – None of the above” button to really communicate their unhappiness.  However even if the maximum number of votes cast is for NOTA, the candidate getting the most of the remaining votes would be declared winner. Just that there will be a clear message in terms of the voter’s resent of the parties in the fray. My guess is that people don’t want to profess helplessness by voting for NOTA. So, they opt for the best of the worst choices and finally get a party to rule them which they actually didn’t want.  Hence the conundrum that whether NOTA really helps!  Remember having NOTA as an option was touted to be one of much needed electoral reform to give the choice to the voter to express her anguish in case she was not happy with the candidates in the fray. But in reality it has turned out to be a lame choice. So I guess we need more than just having a NOTA button on the EVM that will ensure that the verdict reflects our true choices.  Probably a re-election if NOTA gets the maximum votes?? But for now in the election multiple choice question, NOTA is a Naught.

nota cartoon

Postscript: Today is Mother’s Day! That is just for rest of the world. In Tamil Nadu when Amma is in power it’s Mother’s Day 365 days of the year😜😜

Toon Courtesy: Surendra

And the winner is “None of the above” !!!

It is the 16th of May. The day of reckoning for not only the candidates who are in the poll fray but also for the pollsters who have been predicting swings, vote shares and election results. I wake up early, finish my morning chores also early and plonk in front of the idiot box which will soon have experts who will make nonsense out of sense and vice versa depending on how the results swing. After all, this election has been touted as one which will change the destiny of our country in many ways than one. At this time I didn’t realize the tinge of prescience embedded in this statement.

As is the wont, the first one hour indicates only leads and everyone except the one who leads dismisses them as very early trends. But I could sense some tectonic change waiting to happen. Much to my delight, the candidate whom I voted in my constituency was leading. And whom did I vote for??? This is a dilemma I always had when I went to the booth to vote. Whether to vote on the merits of the candidate in my constituency or vote for the party I want to see in power irrespective of the merits of the local candidate. More often than not I found that the party I want to vote has fielded a lousy candidate and the best candidate in my area belongs to the wrong party. But this time, actually 1st time for me I had the option to beat this dilemma by pressing the “None of the above” button and come out happy. And that’s what I did. And in my constituency None of the above is now clearly leading.

NOTA_295x200

Wait a minute. As counting progresses, in many constituencies across the country as the experts were getting flummoxed to explain (but still manage to justify that it was a clear wave not just against incumbency but also against the challenger and all other fringe players blah blah blah) None of the above was emerging as the winner by far. By evening as the Pan India results starting coming out it is clear that the Indian voter has once again spoken and spoken smartly. In the total 543 seats for the Lok Sabha no party or a Pre poll alliance emerges with a clear majority. Reason being, None of the above win in 220 seats out of the total 543. So BJP and the NDA get stumped for the 3rd time with just 120 and 156 seats respectively. The silver lining was the Congress. Silver lining – because it is exactly as per prediction. As one expected they end up at 90 with 77 seats going to the 3rd, 4th, Nth fronts.

By evening parties reconcile to the bizarre result and start mouthing the usual “respect the verdict of the people with all humility” line predictably. One could see that it was difficult for the Congress spokespersons to hide their glee as their archrival- the BJP has been downed once again. Anish Tiwari said “Is me Kattar Soch Nahi, Yuva josh hai. Holistically is Parinam Hume manzoor hai” The mood in the BJP camp is of utter disbelief and despondency. While they had planned their campaign meticulously, they had not bargained for such an outcome at all. The BJP parliamentary party meets quickly and resolves to respect the verdict and support None of the above if they wish to come together and form the Government. Emerging out of the meeting party patriarch Lal Krishna Gidvani (summoning all his histrionic skills to hide his elation) says,

“Hum Vinamrata se maan te hain is haar

Abki bar NOTA Sarkar

Jai Hind”!

In the meanwhile all the None of the above candidates meet and elect their senior None of the above as their parliamentary leader who will become the PM. They shortly meet the President and stake the claim for forming the Government with BJP providing outside support. The next day newspaper headlines, TV tickers and Web banners scream – “Historic verdict – And the winner is None of the above”!!!

It is now the 20th of May. The dust has settled in what was a historic election in the world. India now as None of the above as Prime Minister. And the members of the Cabinet read as

Home Minister: None of the above

Defence Minister: None of the above

External Affairs Minister: None of the above

,…

,…

Ranjay Garu Ex Media advisor to PM Nanmohan Singh is still doing the TV rounds to promote his book “The Incidental Prime Minister”. In one of the channels, the anchor asks him

Anchor: So what do you think of this unprecedented election outcome now that None of the above has become the PM of India

Ranjay Garu: What is so unprecedented about this? I thought for the past 10 years we had one None of the Above as PM!!!

India is now making rapid strides in the economy front with None of the above running the Government meticulously with his None of the above colleagues. None of the above are involved in any scams and corruption is a thing of the past. In world fora, the only thing is top of the lips of all leaders is

None of the above

None of the above

What is wrong with you, blabbering None of the above, None of the above in your sleep?? This is the problem if you watch so much election rubbish on TV!!! Wake up now.