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NOTA Must Count

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In the 16th Lok Sabha elections, 58,754 voters in Punjab and 34,225 voters in Haryana opted for “none of the above” or NOTA. Though the option did not prove too attractive to the voters as compared to other states, but it was considerable. NOTA garnered a countrywide vote share of 1.1% in these Lok Sabha polls, which is more than the vote share managed by parties like the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Janta Dal (United). So, NOTA is an important device in this context. But, former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi said that “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.” This statement warns us that NOTA is an invalid option, and not a valid vote.

According to the Election Commission of India:

The provision of NOTA option is an expression of decision not to vote for the contesting candidates The Hon’ble Supreme Court, in its judgments dated 27 September 2013, in writ Petition No 161 of 2004 directed that the Commission should make necessary provision in the ballot papers/EVM for “None of the Above (NOTA)” option so that the electors who do not wish to vote for any of the candidates can exercise their right not to vote for any candidate without violation of the secrecy of their decision.

When NOTA was introduced, there was a general opinion that it would give voters the power to reject candidates if they did not like any of them in a constituency. The Supreme Court also felt that this would contribute to cleansing politics:

this would build moral pressure on political parties and possibly ring about a rethink on their choice of candidates, making them hesitant to put up candidates with criminal records. The right to negative vote would encourage them to visit the polling stations and express their unhappiness by exercising their choice of rejection.

There are people who are fed up of the current political parties’ ideologies, fake promises, misleading statements, and communal hatred, corruption, and bhai bhatija-wad (nepotism) so they prefer to opt for NOTA. Their apathy for the current political system is genuine, and they want to bring change by showing their dissatisfaction and disappointment with the current political system, that is, by deeming all the contesting candidates equally inadequate. But, their active participation would become passive in the final result when their votes are counted as “invalid votes.” The NOTA option, then, is regarded as only “expressive political participation,” which represents the feeling of a particular voter only.

Some political analysts suggest that at least 50% votes should be polled in order for a candidate to be declared a winner. They are right in their opinion because generally most of the votes are cast against the winning candidate, and in this situation NOTA should be considered as a “negative vote.” If examinations to the civil services have negative marking, why cannot NOTA be considered a negative vote? Casting NOTA votes should affect the account of the winning candidate. Then, it will exert “moral pressure” on political parties because some constituencies had a larger number of NOTA votes than the victory margin. Otherwise NOTA’s importance is nothing more than a statistic used for election analysis.

Satinderpal Singh Bawa
Peedal, Haryana

Updated On : 11th Aug, 2017

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