How to exercise right of not voting?

Jyothi Bhat explains how to exercise the right of not wanting to vote for anyone, that is, 49-O rule, in case one finds no suitable candidates

The election slogan of the Congress for the coming elections is ‘Sakkappa Saku’, JD(S) is calling upon the citizens to "Be the Change". Likewise, each party has its own slogan. At the end of the day, when all the dance and drama is over, the elected representatives from each of these parties, cutting across party lines and ideology will have only one mantra… the mantra of how to double their personal assets in five years (provided the government stands).

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We, the lesser mortals get to vote once in five years for "Change". The country, for the past decade, has been experimenting with coalition politics. Coalition politics has caused more damage to the country than the socialist policies of the government of the by-gone era have caused.

We see the naked display of money made by the elected representatives. Every member of the family of the elected representative suddenly becomes powerful, including the sweeper who sweeps near their homes. We shake our heads in disgust, wondering why we voted for whomever we voted for.

After all, who among the thieves standing for elections is more honourable than the other? The face, physique, religion, caste, etc. may change, but the basic inherent nature remains the same. The contempt for the voters who voted them to power remains. So, it was thought that the time was ripe to teach these people a good lesson. Why not reject all the candidates who are standing for elections and still register our vote?

Rule 49-O of Code of Conduct of elections, 1961 was passed by the Election Commission in 2001. In 2010, in the elections conducted in Goa, 210 people exercised their right not to vote under Rule 49-O. But what is this Rule 49-O, which gives so much power to us, the lesser mortals?

Here is what Rule 49-O says:

Elector deciding not to vote: If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.

So, if you don’t like the candidates who are to represent your area and feel that they should be rejected outright, but still want to register the fact that you have cast your vote, you can do so under Rule 49-O. And how is that possible?

  • Go to the polling station and identify yourself.
  • After your identification is complete, express your intention to abstain from voting to the Polling Officer who will then give you Form 17-A.
  • The Presiding Officer will make a note on this against your name and obtain your signature.

These three simple steps will ensure that you have exercised your right to vote and that your decision to abstain from voting has not been misused.

However, there is a misconception that if the number of voters who choose to exercise their option not to vote for any contesting candidate as provided in Rule 49-O exceeds the margin of votes secured by the winning candidate over the runner up, it will invalidate the election and a re-poll will be held.This is not true. The outcome of using 49-O rule is just that somebody else will not cast vote in your name, and you will not be voting to anyone who you feel don’t deserve it. However, the candidate who secures highest number of valid votes polled, irrespective of his winning margin, is declared elected.

So, would you want to cast your vote but still ensure that your right to vote has not been wrongly used by unscrupulous elements in the election booth? If yes, exercise your right under Rule 49-O.


  1. Ram says:

    OK. Used 49(O), or what is popularly called the negative vote. When I mentioned my desire to make use of it, there was confusion at the polling station. One gentleman very kindly tried to tell me ‘dude, don’t know what dope you’re on, but it’s not good stuff’. Then the lady polling officer there asked me what did I want to do specifically, politely asked me to wait for a few minutes so she could look up section 49(O), called me back in, educated the rest of the polling officers. Apparently there is no form to be filled. You’re marked down in the voters list as having put in a negative vote under Section 49(O) and the voters’ register also carries a similar entry against your name and you sign on that. The one thing that they missed out is to mark my finger with indelible ink. So if you’ve not yet voted and are not happy about the candidates in your constituency, please ask for your right for a negative vote under section 49(O).

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