Bhopal: In the 2018 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress and the BJP were locked in a close contest for power, with the former emerging as the single largest party with 114 seats, just two short of the majority mark of 116. The BJP, which had ruled the state for 15 years, came second with 109 seats. However, on 10 out of the 230 seats in the state, the difference between the winning and the losing candidates was less than one thousand votes, while the number of votes cast for the None of the Above (NOTA) option was more than this difference. This means that NOTA votes could have potentially influenced the outcome of these seats, and hence, the fate of the two parties.
NOTA is an option given to voters who do not want to vote for any of the candidates in their constituency. It was introduced in India in 2013 by the Supreme Court as a form of negative voting, to express dissatisfaction with the available choices. India is the 14th country in the world to offer such an option to its voters.
According to the data from the Election Commission of India, NOTA received 5.39 lakh votes in Madhya Pradesh in 2018, accounting for 1.4% of the total votes polled. On 10 seats, where the victory margin was less than one thousand votes, NOTA received 18,872 votes, which was more than three times the combined victory margin of 6,028 votes on these seats. Of these 10 seats, seven were won by Congress and three by BJP.
The table below shows the details of these 10 seats, along with the names of the winning and losing candidates, their party affiliation, their vote share, their victory margin, and the number of NOTA votes.
|Seat||Winning Candidate||Party||Vote Share||Losing Candidate||Party||Vote Share||Victory Margin||NOTA Votes|
|Gwalior Rural||Praveen Pathak||Congress||38.9%||Narayan Kushwaha||BJP||38.8%||121||1,349|
|Suwasra||Hardeep Singh Dang||Congress||42.6%||Radheshyam Patidar||BJP||42.2%||350||2,976|
|Rajpur (ST)||Bala Bachchan||Congress||41.2%||Antar Singh Patel (Bhaiya)||BJP||40.9%||932||2,647|
|Damoh||Rahul Singh Lodhi (Rahul Bhaiya)||Congress||37.7%||Jayant Malaiya (Jayant Bhaiya)||BJP||37.5%||798||1,544|
|Biaora (SC)||Govardhan Dangi (Govardhan Bhaiya)||Congress||41.9%||Narayan Singh Panwar (Narayan Bhaiya)||BJP||41.7%||890||1,722|
|Jabalpur Purba (SC)||Lakhan Ghanghoria||Congress||35.4%||Gourishankar Shejwar (Gourishankar Bhaiya)||BJP||35.1%||798||1,518|
|Rajnagar (SC)||Vikram Singh (Nati Raja)||Congress||38.6%||Rajendra Shukla (Rajendra Bhaiya)||BJP||38.3%||932||1,544|
|Rau||Jitu Patwari (Jitu Bhaiya)||Congress||44.7%||Mohan Yadav (Mohan Bhaiya)||BJP||44.4%||900||1,721|
|Mungaoli||Brajendra Singh Yadav (Brajendra Bhaiya)||Congress||42.9%||Mukesh Choudhary (Mukesh Bhaiya)||BJP||42.7%||354||1,647|
|Maihar (SC)||Rajaram Tripathi (Rajaram Bhaiya)||BJP||40.9%||Narayan Tripathi (Narayan Bhaiya)||Congress||40.8%||736||1,304|
The table shows that on some seats, such as Gwalior Rural and Mungaoli, the victory margin was very narrow, with less than 200 votes, while the NOTA votes were more than 1,000. On other seats, such as Suwasra and Rajpur, the victory margin was less than 1,000 votes, while the NOTA votes were more than 2,000. This suggests that if the NOTA voters had chosen to vote for any of the candidates, or if there had been a candidate of their choice, the result could have been different.
The table also shows that most of these seats were won by Congress with a slight edge over the BJP, indicating that the anti-incumbency factor against the BJP government may have played a role in these constituencies. However, some seats, such as Maihar and Rajnagar, were retained by the BJP with a slim margin over Congress, showing that the BJP still had some support base in these areas.
As the 2023 assembly elections approach, both parties are likely to focus on these 10 seats, as they could make a difference in the final outcome. The parties may try to woo the NOTA voters by addressing their grievances and offering them better alternatives. The parties may also try to convert their last defeat into victory or increase their margin of victory by mobilizing their core voters and attracting new ones. The NOTA voters, on the other hand, may also reconsider their options and decide whether to vote for any of the candidates or stick to their negative vote.