New Delhi: 13 Nov 2014

The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) has deplored the BJP-ruled Gujarat Government’s move for compulsory voting in the local elections scheduled to be held in the state in 2015. The party termed it as unconstitutional and anti-poor which would increase corruption.


SDPI national president A. Sayeed in a statement said that the law for compulsory voting will be an instrument to harass people, as the police will have the ultimate power to implement the law. The police, as usual, will indulge in ‘negotiation’, which will increase corrupt practices and the number of court cases too”, he added.


Sayeed said the government’s responsibility is to create awareness among the people and encourage them to exercise their franchise as a right. First strengthen the process of election, bring in accountability among people who stand for election, clean out the system and then start to think if making the voting a compulsory act, is necessary at all or not. Foremost there ought to be a complete overhaul of the election system that will bring back the confidence of the public that will instill in them a sense of pride in being able to contribute to the future of the nation & self. It does not start by making things compulsory. He said let us first cure the politicians: criminals, corrupt, nepotism, favoritism, etc. and then talk about compulsion of voting for citizens.


The statement stated that it is one of the irrational laws and does not count towards electoral reforms. Firstly, it has been cherry picked as it is easier than curbing money and muscle power and strike on politicians’ own interest. Secondly, voting is a matter of right and individual choice as to how to exercise it. There were several places through out India during the last Lok Sabha elections that boycotted voting as a mark of protest against the total neglect by government. So, now government plans on punishing them as well? And how practical would it be to implement? Democracy is based on cooperation consensus and not coercion. The law is fundamentally against the democratic ethos.


In 2009 the then Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal returned the Bill to the Gujarat government for reconsideration, noting that it violated Article 19(1)(A) of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression that also includes the right not to vote. However, the Narendra Modi led State government reintroduced the Bill in its original form and passed it in 2011 again but Governor Beniwal kept it hanging till she was transferred to Mizoram from where she was sacked later on, the statement pointed out.


Sayeed said India is a democratic country and this law is autocratic. An individual has the freedom whether or not to exercise his or her right to vote. The concept of democracy provides that freedom of expression also implies freedom not to express ones views. Thus, when a qualified voter decides not to vote in favor of any of the candidates by refraining to express himself and remaining neutral, he would be exercising his fundamental right as part of Freedom of Expression, he added.