Business Standard
New Delhi
 ‘wholeheartedly’ endorses it; Sitaram Yechury says it’s nonsense. The janta on  is equally divided over the ’s directive to the  asking it to introduce negative voting. But more important than the debate on whether a right to reject is good or bad, is a question that begs an answer from our politicians – why have we been pushed to a point where we are compelled to make such a choice? Why has the electorate’s trust in our polity been hollowed out to such an extent? 
The apex court’s directive proves that it’s not just the voter in fact, but also the judiciary whose trust in politicians has hit an all time low. This directive comes just a day after the Congress was about to pass an unconstitutional ordinance quashing a court order that sought to reform the electoral process. And ’s attempts at damage control with his ‘throw this ordinance in the dustbin’ chant, met with such cynicism that he’d rather have kept quiet. 
This disdain among citizens reflects India’s widening trust deficit with its politicians. A study by the  says its hit rock bottom in 2013. Among 148 countries, India ranks 115th in terms of trust in politicians – down almost 30 ranks since 2010, lowest among the  and hold your breath, below even Pakistan! 
Not surprisingly the same study rated India 40th on judicial independence. Not unexpected because it is India’s activist judiciary, in the aftermath of astonishing political scams and scandals, that has been seen cleaning up the system through its stern diktats on policy making and electoral reform. Politicians have been crying foul of course, saying the judiciary has overstepped its mandate on more than one occasion and the interference is leading to a paralysis in decision making. But given our politicians’ amazing propensity to be caught on the wrong side of the law, the courts had little choice. 
In fact, this path breaking verdict on negative voting is among a series of judgments initiated by the bench recently, to improve the electoral process. The earlier ones being restraining politicians in custody from contesting elections and disqualifying convicted MPs and MLAs - both of which saw the opposition and the ruling party, usually at loggerheads over the smallest of issues,  joining hands. 
It hasn’t always taken courts to wake up a ‘frustrated with the system’ electorate though. In 2007, citizens of the Juhu ward in Mumbai decided to take matters in their own hand and elected Adolf D’Souza a non-political candidate during the municipal elections. But it’s the fate that he met 5 years later, along with other citizen candidates (just 1 candidate out of the 79 who stood, won) and the fate that clean independents continue to meet in elections, that is more telling of the political choices we make. 
The tentacles of crime and corruption run deep in Indian politics. 30% of our elected MPs face criminal charges. But what’s amazing is that candidates convicted of crimes are twice as likely to be elected as those with clean records according to a Wall Street Journal report citing Association of Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch data. 
That explains why someone like Jaganmohan Reddy, supposedly a ‘victim of vendetta’ is the talk of the town. But it also makes one ask whether the whole purpose behind a negative vote would be lost on the Indian electorate, which votes on the basis of myriad issues like caste, religion, bribes and dole –and for whom corruption and criminal records aren’t necessarily grounds to reject a candidate. 
© Association for Democratic Reforms
Privacy And Terms Of Use
Donation Payment Method