Some facts about 49-O – Note: this is not a collection of the usual information… please read it even if you are aware

(Sorry for putting this up on election day – did not get enough time to write about this.)

49-O as a concept started gaining popularity through e-mails and SMS forwards. But there are some misconceptions floating around. False awareness is more dangerous than no awareness! It’s quite long, but I request you to read it if you really are interested in 49-O awareness.

A sample message below. You can skip the text if you have already read about it.

How many of you know that we have a right to boycott elections and ask for re-poll? According to the constitution,the 1969 Act clearly mentions that anyperson who is unacceptale or non eligible if you feel you can use the section 49 (O).A voter can go to the polling station, confirm his identity by getting his finger marked and convey the authority that he dont like to vote for anyone.We are not informed of this because none of the representative wants any voter to boycott elections.

In any particular constituency if any voter get 123 votes and more than 123 49(o) the polling will be cancelled and the election commission will schedule a new date.The particular contestant against who the number of 49 os are received will not be held eligible.

Our election commission has never revealed this section to the general public so that people will abstain from voting a particular candidate whom they dont feel fit enough to contest from their constituency. We all feel that we have to vote for some candidate from our constituency even if we dont like to vote for them.We can save our votes and the valuable votes of many by eliminating corrupt and illiterate politicians and save our country from the clutches of such hooligans.

Use your constitutional rights against the anti-social elements in our country. If not we are dishonouring our fundamental rights and sacrificing the nation’s future.

Jai Hind!

It is easy to get swept away by such ambitious words and make a mental note to register 49-O and make sure the candidiates are ‘disqualified’ by our action. However well-intentioned this email might be, it is full of misinformation, about the rule, it’s awareness and consequences. The strong words at the end of the message that you will be ‘dishonouring’ your fundamental right and harming the nation somehow will most often stop you from doing any further research and checking on any of the information in the message. But just as it is our duty to know our right, so it is to cross check facts and verify them, apart from thinking over the validity of some points made.

Consider the following –

Right of Secrecy: The procedure of 49-O violates the basic right of the voter to maintain secrecy of his/her choice. Inserting this option into EVMs would be a solution that would clear the hesitation and fear of many people. Infact, this can be seen as one of the major reasons as to why 49-O fails to get people to vote for it even if they are aware.

Awareness: Only a fool would expect a representative of political parties to ‘inform’ the voters of the option – mentioning the fact in this message achieves nothing more than kindling up anger against politicians. Seriously, how many righteous ‘Mahatmas’ among ourselves wish to fail, even if we know we did wrong? Politicians are no different, they want to win – why else would they contest?

It is left to activists, well-meaning people and the Election Commission of India to spread awareness about it. And unlike the text given above, the EC has not been hiding this from the public. In earlier times, ballot papers could be nullified by multiple voting. Implementation of EVMs has made the 49-O concept a relatively new tool. In fact, it is the Election Commission that has put forward a proposal to include this option in EVMs in order to maintain the right of secrecy. It can be read in Page 14 of the following letter Why the proposal has not been considered by the Government is obvious.

The Result: The most dangerous hoax of all, perhaps, is this. To have such an amazing power in our hands sounds too good to be true – and it is exactly that. Please inform this to your friends too – majority of people voting for 49-O will not nullify any candidate or result in re-polls. This has most probably been included as an additional motivation by some well-meaning soul, although false, to encourage people to exercise this right.

The EC has itself issued a clarification for this. You can read it right here – A simple Google search will tell you the fallacy of this statement. The best that this right of ours can do at this point of it’s existence, is to inform the political parties of the people’s view – that most of them are disappointed with the candidates. It also prevents bogus votes. Whatever happens, the candidate with majority valid votes will win.

Of course, nothing stops people from taking initiative and seeing this law to the next stage, i.e when it really does nullify a polling on majority of neutral voting. But at it’s present form, it just does not happen.

Please spread this around. This is not a skeptical piece or a criticism of the law. I have written this down to clear the misconceptions about 49-O and my thought is that people should not go on to vote for it believing such false promises. I too sincerely wish this law would evolve more to give the people some real power instead of simply expressing displeasure. 

Happy voting 🙂

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