Bhopal: The NOTA button in EVM stands for None Of The Above, which is an option for the voters to reject all the candidates in the fray.
The role of NOTA in the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections 2018 was significant, as it affected the outcome of several seats and the overall result.
According to the Election Commission of India, NOTA received 5.42 lakh votes, which accounted for 1.4 per cent of the total votes polled in the state This was higher than the votes received by many political parties, such as the Samajwadi Party, the CPI, the NCP and the AAP3
NOTA also played a key role in deciding who won on more than 20 seats in the state, where the victory margin was less than the NOTA votes Out of these, 12 seats were lost by the BJP, which fell six short of the Congress’s tally of 1143 Some of the seats where the BJP lost by a margin lower than the NOTA votes were Suwasra, Jabalpur North, Damoh, Biaora, Rajpur, Mandhata, Nepanagar, Jobat, Gunnour, and Petalawad
Therefore, NOTA had a crucial role in the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections 2018, as it reflected the dissatisfaction of the voters with the existing political system and the quality of candidates, and also influenced the final outcome of the election.
The history and importance of NOTA in elections are as follows:
- The Supreme Court of India introduced the NOTA option in 2013 after a writ petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) argued that the right to vote also includes the right to reject. The court held that NOTA would enhance democratic values and compel the political parties to nominate clean candidates.
- The NOTA option was first used in the 2013 assembly elections held in four states (Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh), and the Union Territory of Delhi. Since then, it has been used in one Lok Sabha election and 37 assembly elections.
- The NOTA option has gained popularity among the voters, especially the youth, who are dissatisfied with the existing political system and the quality of candidates. In some elections, NOTA has secured more votes than many of the political parties that contested.
- The NOTA option has also influenced the election results in some constituencies, where the votes polled for NOTA were higher than the margin by which the winning candidate defeated the runner-up. For example, in the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections, NOTA votes exceeded victory margins in 12 seats.
- The NOTA option, however, does not have any electoral value, as even if the majority of the voters choose NOTA, the candidate with the highest number of votes among the contesting candidates will be declared the winner. The Election Commission of India has also clarified that NOTA votes do not affect the forfeiture of security deposit or the eligibility of candidates for re-election.
- The NOTA option is also not applicable in the Rajya Sabha elections, which are held by the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. The Supreme Court, in 2018, scrapped the NOTA option in Rajya Sabha elections, stating that it would defeat the fairness and objective of indirect elections and encourage malpractices like defection and corruption.
Therefore, the NOTA option is a significant feature of the Indian electoral system, which gives the voters a voice to express their discontent and dissatisfaction with the political parties and candidates, and also serves as a pressure tactic to improve the quality of governance and democracy in the country.