At least 1.5 million voters in the recent Indian assembly elections to five states used the unprecedented option of voting for none of the contestants.
The “None Of The Above”, or NOTA option was a unique introduction into India’s electoral system on the orders of the country’s Supreme Court in September this year.
While no political party was clear how it would work during the elections, the NOTA option appears to have gone against the Congress in Delhi in several constituencies and proved ominous for some candidates from the other two parties.
For example, in the midst of the debutant Aam Aadmi Party’s dream showing in Delhi, a high-profile member Shazia Ilmi lost by 326 votes. The NOTA votes polled in her constituency was higher – 528. Some interpret this to say that had NOTA not been an option, Ilmi may have scraped through.
Overall though, the NOTA option was used by 0.6 percent of voters in Delhi and even more negligibly in Mizoram with reports placing it at less than 200. But in the three other states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, NOTA came third in 148 of the 520 constituencies.
In terms of a region, NOTA seems to have been a big hit in the Maoist-dominated regions of Chhatisgarh. In the Bijapur constituency, for instance, over 10 percent chose the option of rejecting all contestants.
Analysts interpret the rejection as a reflection of poor governance and the resentment of local people to those in power and the quality of the administration.
Politicians have largely expressed scepticism over what the NOTA option actually means and its purpose.
D Raja of the Communist Party of India was quoted by The Hindu newspaper as saying, “All it [NOTA] has done is to give voters a right to exercise, which is a fundamental right; but there was neither clarity on what it meant nor its consequences.”
Others however disagree saying the level of NOTA usage is a statistical confirmation of the exact number of people who are disillusioned by the methods and working of political parties and their governments.