NOTA outperforms AAP, SP, NCP in legislative Assembly elections: It's a trend that is catching on fast

The NOTA or none of the above option was the sixth most popular choice in the recently-concluded Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly elections, after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The situation was similar in other states — NOTA outperformed several political parties, including the AAP and Samajwadi Party, that contested the Assembly polls in the five states.

According to the Election Commission's website at 8 pm on Tuesday, the NOTA votes ranged as high as 2.1 percent in Chhattisgarh to 0.5 percent in Mizoram. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which fielded its candidates on 85 seats out of 90 seats in Chhattisgarh, got 0.9 percent of votes while NOTA were 2.1 percent of the counted votes in the state.

Samajwadi Party and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) got 0.2 percent votes each in Chhattisgarh. The Communist Party of India (CPI) got 0.3 percent votes in the state.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat in October at a gathering had urged voters not to chose NOTA because  by selecting the NOTA option, a voter chooses the "available worst against the available best".

In Madhya Pradesh, NOTA polled 1.5 percent of the total counted votes. Samajwadi Party got 1.01 percent while AAP got 0.7 percent votes. The NOTA votes in Rajasthan elections were 1.3 percent. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and SP got 1.2 percent and 0.2 percent votes respectively.

The AAP and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) received 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent votes each in the state. In Telangana Vidhan Sabha Assembly polls, NOTA got 1.1 percent of votes while NCP got 0.1 percent of votes. The CPI(M) polled 0.4 percent votes while CPI received 0.4 percent votes.

In Mizoram, NOTA got 0.5 percent of votes while People's Represent for Identity and Status of Mizoram (PRISM) got 0.2 percent of votes.

In February, 2018 Rajasthan bypolls, where the BJP had suffered a major setback after it lost all three byelections, for two Lok Sabha seats and one assembly seat, to arch-rival Congress, as many as 27,000 voters said no to all candidates. DNA reported, "Their anger and angst can be gauged from the fact that in Alwar parliamentary constituency alone more than 15,000 voters opted for NOTA."

NOTA: Right to register negative opinion

Debuting in the 2013, NOTA was based on the directive of Supreme Court in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties versus Union of India judgment. India was the 14th country to introduce negative voting, however, it has also been argued that NOTA is not 'the right to reject' all candidates standing in the election, but instead 'the right to register a negative opinion'. This option is based on the principle that "consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election".

NOTA gives people dissatisfied with contesting candidates an opportunity to express their disapproval. This, in turn, increases the chances of more people turning up to cast their votes, even if they do not support any candidate, and decreases the count of bogus votes.

Also, a bench headed by then Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam said negative voting could bring about "a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates".

The reason behind rise of NOTA can be attributed to political fatigue. It was also a way of giving a choice to the voter. The Election Commission clarified that votes caste as NOTA are counted, but are considered 'invalid votes'. Therefore, votes made to NOTA will not change the outcome of the election.

For example, as former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi pointed out: "Even if there are 99 NOTA votes out of a total of 100, and candidate X gets just one vote, X is the winner, having obtained the only valid vote. The rest will be treated as invalid or no votes."

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Updated Date: Dec 12, 2018 14:58:47 IST

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