The inclusion of ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option in electronic voting machines (EVM) is getting mixed response in valley from both political mainstream and separatists. However, the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) terms the NOTA option a ‘non-issue’ for Jammu and Kashmir.
Talking to a local news agency, KNS, the chief spokesman PDP Naeem Akhtar said that the party is more concerned about the ‘democratic deficit’ that is present in the state. Akhtar further stated that the option could be a good step for the places where democracy has already flourished. “Our main concern is the public opinion, the option can be welcomed in other states where the people have enjoyed democracy, in Jammu and Kashmir the process has been subverted from 1947.” Akhtar further stated that the democracy in the state is itself in the ‘infant stage’ and that the party is more concerned for the conduction of ‘free and fair’ elections in the state. He said that the introduction of NOTA is not a ‘big’ issue for PDP.
National Conference says that the party has not decided yet to have discussions over the issue and that the deliberations about the matter are expected to be initiated soon. Chief Minster’s Political Secretary Tanvir Sadiq when contacted by KNS said that the party has yet not given the final thought to the issue. “My opinion is that the decision will be passed by the state assembly and the cabinet and then only it can be implemented in the state.”
With the congress leader and Cabinet Minter Taj Mohi-ud-din apprehensive that the option could be ‘misused’ by the separatist elements in the state, he has said that the concerns have already been highlighted in the letter that has been sent to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Mirwaiz Umar Forooq, the chairman of Hurriat (M) has termed the option ‘interesting opportunity’ for the pro-freedom camp of valley. He has said, “I think the Right to Reject merits a serious consideration. We need to deliberate on it. If people have the choice to reject contesting candidates, it gives the people of Kashmir a chance to tell the world where we stand.”
Syed Ali Geelani’s Huriyat Conference said that the NOTA option would be a ‘good step’ for other places and that Kashmir has no relevance vis-à-vis this issue. “Kashmir is an International dispute, people should totally boycott the polls, no other option is acceptable,” said Huriyat G spokesman Ayaz Akbar.
Pertinently, the EC has decided to introduce NOTA option in the upcoming Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram. While the voters of the five state will exercise their right to reject, experts feel the NOTA option has no electoral value, as the candidate who gathers the maximum number of votes will be declared winner, irrespective of the votes polled under NOTA.