Thousands of disgruntled homebuyers are mulling the None of the Above (NOTA) option in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. While some have been waiting to get their homes for over a decade, others are upset that regulatory mechanisms such as Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) have not lived up to their expectations.
Experts say that the pain and frustration among homebuyers is understandable, but the NOTA option may not serve any purpose because eventually the candidate with highest votes still wins. The solution lies in bringing about electoral reforms, especially the ‘vote recall’ option wherein homebuyers actually have the power to recall a candidate who does not fight for their cause or meet their expectations.
Flat buyers under a registered umbrella body, Noida Extension Flat Owners Welfare Association (NEFOWA), and other associations have launched the ‘No Home, No Vote’ campaign through which they have decided to express their anguish over delays in getting possession of flats.
In 2014, a total 3,836 votes were polled for ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) in Gautam Buddh Nagar constituency, less than one percent of the total votes cast that year.
Abhishek Kumar of NEFOWA says that over 50,000 homebuyers from the Greater Noida West have enrolled for the campaign. “This is expected to impact over 2 lakh buyers from across the country as those who have invested in the area are from several states. Some are residing in Bihar, some in other parts of Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh. We had a lot of expectations from the current government but it has not been able to solve our problems,” he says.
Priti Nath, a buyer who had invested in a project in Gurugram way back in 2011 and has still not received possession, as the company has gone into liquidation says that "Nobody is willing to lend us an ear and that is the reason why we have decided to go in for the NOTA option. Through this we want to send out the message to all parties that if they do not give priority to homebuyers’ concerns, we will not vote for them. NOTA, therefore is the best option for us right now," she says.
Abhay Upadhyay, president Forum For People's Collective Efforts and member, Central Advisory Council, RERA, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, has a contrarian view.
He agrees that homebuyers are today a frustrated lot. Expectations from RERA have not been met. Also, instead of solving problems, it has created a lot of confusion. There is still no clarity on whether buyers’ grievances can be addressed better by a consumer court or under the RERA platform. If possession was promised in 2021, under the revised builder-buyer agreements, the possession date has now been pushed to 2024. The middle class has lost confidence in the system.
"My view is if you exercise the NOTA option, you are indirectly favouring the second candidate who may be worse than the first. Homebuyers should rather vote for a fresh face who once elected may be motivated enough to work for their cause," he says.
Another buyer Raghu from Bengaluru is of the opinion that the NOTA option does not make sense. “It will not bring the results for which the action is being undertaken. The system does not record the reason why somebody has exercised the NOTA option. It does not record what their grievance is. The NOTA option when exercised only states that it is an invalid vote but it does not impact the outcome of the electoral system. Unless there are electoral reforms that provide for options that say why you are exercising this option, it does not make sense.”
What is important is to have a system in place that offers the option for right to recall. “The system should be able to register, give reasons as to why a buyer is exercising a NOTA and there should be an electoral reform that states that if 50 percent have rejected a candidate, then the party should file a fresh set of candidates or fresh elections should be conducted. The right of citizens to recall a candidate if their grievances are not addressed or expectations not met, should be there. Only then will NOTA become effective. Right now it is a namesake tool and not an effective tool,” he says.
Kumar Mihir, a senior lawyer is also believes that NOTA will not serve any purpose. "Even if you use this as a way to register your protest, the candidate who gets the highest number of votes will win. Even if you register your protest by voting for NOTA, it does not mean that no one will win from Greater Noida or Navi Mumbai. Someone is bound to win and be declared as the next member of Parliament.
"What you need now is to choose a candidate who can take a policy decisions on behalf of homebuyers. What is required is the right to recall. This means that if majority of voters in a constituency feel that their elected representatives are not working for them, they should have the right to recall their elected representatives. By majority vote, citizens can actually remove their elected representatives before their term finishes. That is the best way that does not require you to wait for another five years to recall the elected candidate,” he adds.
Interestingly, a recent media report spoke of the launch of a Right to Recall party in Uttar Pradesh. A computer operator Rakesh Suri is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Ghaziabad on a ‘Right to Recall’ party ticket. The party’s aim, as the name suggests, is to spread awareness among citizens on the proposal for recalling political leaders who do not fulfill their promises.
NOTA was introduced to empower the citizens to indicate their disapproval for all email@example.com