In 2009, the Election Commission of India proposed that the Supreme Court introduce a new voting option ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) at the local as well as the state and central levels. In 2013, the Supreme Court agreed to allow EC to introduce the given option which eventually meant the vote was ‘against all’. On one hand, NOTA provides the voters with an option to express their dissatisfaction over all the candidates contesting from their constituencies. But, on the other hand, it doesn’t legally swing or disqualifies an election no matter how many voters opt for NOTA.
Almost all political parties showed displeasure when NOTA was introduced and promoted it as a wastage of an individual vote. We can often see people looking down at NOTA as a useless alternative that can bring no change. But is it really true in the long run? Does NOTA really mean nothing? False, it does.
In the 2014 general elections, NOTA received a total of 1.1% votes throughout the country. But, as we moved into 2018, with Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh going into their assembly elections, NOTA had grown substantially to swing results.
Madhya Pradesh -
At least 22 assembly seats were decided in the Madhya Pradesh assembly election by a victory margin of less than the votes polled under NOTA. In Madhya Pradesh, total NOTA votes were 5,42,295 or 1.4% of polled votes. What’s more fascinating is, BJP gained 41.3% of vote share and Congress, which swept the elections received 41.4 % of the vote share. How critical does the 1.5 % of NOTA votes become in such a situation where the winning margin is as low as 0.1%? Very critical.
In 2018 assembly polls of Rajasthan, BJP received 38.8 % of votes whereas Congress pulled 39.03 % votes. The victory margin was around 0.5%. However, NOTA vote share was 1.3% in this election.
Although Chhattisgarh was a clean sweep for the Congress, the NOTA votes were higher than the other two states. Chhattisgarh saw 2.0% of voters choosing NOTA, higher than what Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party, Communist Party of India and Nationalist Congress Party received together. (AAP : 0.9 %, CPI : 0.3 %, SP & NCP : 0.2 %)
Looking at the aforementioned analysis, it becomes evident that NOTA can actually swing elections, even though it can’t disqualify any candidate. BJP must have mourned over those 1.5% & 1.3% of NOTA votes registered in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, while Congress would have rejoiced.
How will NOTA bring a change in politics in the long run?
As we go through the above figures, we realize that NOTA plays a big role in swinging tight elections. Our political parties have already realised this. But in the long run, as the percentage of NOTA will eventually rise, parties will be made to rethink their strategies.
We all know that every party has a targeted vote bank based on religion, caste, class and many such aspects. But NOTA comes as something they hadn’t prepared for, a chapter out of syllabus. Now, the interesting fact is, the voters opting for NOTA do belong to a particular vote bank of one or other party and these parties are eventually losing their votes to NOTA. So, in order to discourage people from using NOTA, they will have to make sure that they propose a candidate who is suitable for voters, a candidate who has a clean record and better political intent. As we move ahead, NOTA will be a game changer and bring out the best from our political parties.
So, next time when someone tells you that NOTA is useless, smile at their unawareness and walk away.