Nota, an undervalued game changer in polls

In many polls, Nota got more votes than candidates.

Hyderabad: ‘Nota’ (None of The Above) is changing the fate of candidates in several constituencies. It is not in the interest of political parties to advertise the fact that they are being rejected by the electorate, and so the power of Nota is being deliberately underplayed.

In many elections the option on the ballot paper to not vote for any of the candidates has won more votes than some political parties that contested. For example, in the 2014 Assembly elections in Kalwakurthy assembly constituency, Congress candidate Vamshi Chand Reddy won with a majority of just 78 votes. Nota polled 1,139 votes. If these votes had been polled to any of the contesting candidates the result would have been different.

Nota was introduced for the first time in India in the 2014 Rajya Sabha elections following a Supreme Court directive. Initially, Nota had no symbol but in the 2015 general election the Election Commission announced a symbol which was designed by the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad.

When Nota was first introduced, there was little response to it. It gradually increased in popularity as voters understood its significance and decided to give vent to their frustration with ineffective political parties. Not surprisingly, there are more Nota users in rural areas than urban areas.

Where the margin of votes between the winning candidate and her/his nearest rival is slim, Nota can change the fate of the candidates. In some cases the votes polled to Nota are more than the margin by which a candidate has won. If these votes were polled to a candidate, the result could have been different.

According to EC records, in the last Assembly election in Chhattisgarh, Nota polled more votes in 34 Assembly seats than the majority of wining candidates! Where there is a tight fight between two candidates Nota changes the fate of candidates.

In the recent by-elections in Karnataka also, Nota polled sizeable number of votes. Where a candidate wins by a huge majority, Nota cannot change the outcome. In Mandya Lok Sabha constituency, highest votes were polled to Nota with 15,480, whereas in Ballari Lok Sabha constituency Nota got 12,413 votes.

In some constituencies Nota got more votes than some of the contesting candidates. This happened in Serilimgampally, LB Nagar and Shadnagar Assembly constituencies. In Serilimgampally, 14 candidates got less than the polls voted to Nota; in LB Nagar it was 24 candidates and in Shadnagar eight candidates got less than the votes polled to Nota.

Nota has no electoral value, but it does provide a measure of the anger, disgust or indifference that the electorate has for the candidates. If a large number of the electorate rejected all the candidates, it could send out a strong message that existing parties are not meeting expectations and need to pull up their socks.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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