With the elections due next year, the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) have taken up the ‘negative’ implications of ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option available in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) at the highest level in Government of India and the Congress high command respectively.
Both the parties have vehemently argued before the government of India and the Congress high command that the NOTA option in EVMs can be misused by the separatist leadership in Jammu and Kashmir who according to the political mainstream here are hell-bent to undermine the importance of electoral process.
A senior Congress leader pleading anonymity told KNS that the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has already taken up the issue at the highest level in government of India urging for the remedial measures. “The Chief Minister has also expressed serious concern while taking up the issue with the Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in Delhi,” the Congress leader told KNS.
Reliable sources revealed to Kashmir News Service, that the senior PCC leadership in a formal meeting today raised the issue with Rahul Gandhi the Congress vice president who is in Srinagar. “Rahul Ji assured us that the issue will be thoroughly examined by the Congress high command and a decision in this regard will be take accordingly,” a senior Congress minister who met Gandhi told KNS.
In this backdrop, the PCC leadership is said to have shot a number of communiqués to the Congress high command in Delhi emphasizing the need to go for review of the Supreme Court judgment in context of the ‘peculiar situation’ in Jammu and Kashmir. In its judgment, the Apex Court had directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to introduce NOTA button on EVMs so that the voters have an option available to reject their votes.
There is almost a consensus among political mainstream in the state that there should be no NOTA button in EVMs in Jammu and Kashmir keeping in view the separatists’ election boycott calls, sources in the Pradesh Congress Committee told KNS. When asked to elaborate on ‘negative implications’ of NOTA option in Kashmir, a senior Congress leader said: “For example tomorrow if separatists urge people to participate in elections and press NOTA button then it will be deemed as a referendum. This is how this option can be misconstrued and misused.”
Various Congress leaders here when contacted opined that government of India have options available to it to get the Supreme Court judgment modified in respect of Jammu and Kashmir. “The Government of India has many options available to it like issuance of an ordinance or enacting a bill in the Parliament. It can approach the Supreme Court as well to get its judgment modified in context with its implementation in Jammu and Kashmir,” informed a senior Congress leader.
The NOTA option assumes significance in Jammu and Kashmir as the separatists have been asking people to boycott the electoral process at every level for the last two decades. In order to ensure minimum participation in elections, they have been running election boycott campaigns also.
On the forefront of the election boycott strategy, is Syed Ali Geelani, the Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman who was freed from house confinement few days ago. Geelani commenced his election boycott campaign from Sopore where he addressed a gathering urging them to boycott the forthcoming polls completely. He believes that participation in elections is to ‘betray the freedom movement and a move to legitimize’ what he calls “Indian occupation in Jammu and Kashmir”.
On the contrary the political mainstream believes that the elections in Jammu and Kashmir have never undermined the importance of the Kashmir issue and formation of the state government is purely to address the issues of basic amenities including water, electricity, roads, ration and development.
Pertinently, on September 27, this year the Supreme Court directed the ECI to introduce NOTA button option in EVMs and on the ballot papers in order to allow the voters to exercise their right to reject option for undeserving candidates in the elections.