Ever since voters have been provided the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option if they do not want to vote for any of the candidates in the fray, political parties now cite many voters having chosen NOTA as a reason for losing an election.
Is it true?
It can be true in very close contest, when voters are in small numbers and the margin of victory and defeat is rather small. But overall, there has hardly been any election in India where NOTA has been instrumental in altering an electoral verdict.
What the data shows?
- In the recent round of elections to five State Assemblies, where the margin of votes between the main contenders was narrow —for example only 0.1% in Madhya Pradesh and about 0.5% in Rajasthan — the losing sides cited NOTA voting as among the main reason for its defeat.
- In the recent State Assembly elections, the results indicate a decline in NOTA votes in four States, Telangana being the only exception. The decline was from 1.9% to 1.4% in Madhya Pradesh; 1.9% to 1.3% in Rajasthan; 3.0% to 1.9% in Chhattisgarh; and 0.6% to 0.4% in Mizoram.
- In Telangana, there was a marginal increase from 0.7% to 1.0%. The data show no bigger attraction for NOTA in these five States in the last five years. It is the same in States other than these five which have gone to the polls in recent years.
- In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, only 1.08% voters opted for NOTA nationally. There was hardly any significant NOTA vote except in Puducherry where 3% voters opted for it and 2.8% in Meghalaya.
- In a number of States, the NOTA votes were in the range of 1-1.5% of the total votes polled.
Analysing the trends –
- When the average size of a Lok Sabha constituency is about 27 lakh voters, it is difficult to imagine that a small percentage of votes could alter electoral outcomes in a large number of constituencies.
- It is widely believed, and true to some extent, that NOTA could be a useful tool (such as in a local body election) if constituencies are smaller in size, with fewer voters. But this is still not seen as a viable option among voters even in a State Assembly election.
- An average Assembly constituency in a State in the Hindi heartland has about 4-5 lakh voters; a small number of voters opting for NOTA will hardly affect the overall electoral outcome.
- There may be instances of a significant number of constituencies where NOTA votes may be higher than the margin of victory, but, normally, such seats are also divided between various political parties in proportion to their share of victories. This situation arose in Rajasthan recently where 16 seats represented NOTA votes having higher proportion than the victory margin. But these seats were evenly distributed between the two competing parties which hardly made a difference to the election outcome.
So can we say that NOTA is more important in these elections compared to the past?
Source – The Hindu
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