Indian Politics

WHAT NOTA MEANS AND WHAT IT SHOULD? 4.88/5 (16)

NOTA
Source: Indiatoday

The people of India have chosen. A person who will represent their nation, an alliance that will be their government and an ideology. That will represent the people of India  for the forthcoming 5 years. With the turnout ratio standing at 67.11 per cent. It was the highest ever voter turnout in the history of Indian parliamentary elections. The wave of elections was in the air long before today, with tumultuous campaigns, controversies and protests of people. However, during all this frenzy, we forgot an important aspect, a significant voting option and an exercisable right. NONE OF THE ABOVE or NOTA.

So what is NOTA and what is its significance?

The none of the above or the NOTA option on electronic voting machines (EVMs) allows voters to exercise their right to disapprove of all the candidates contesting the elections. NOTA also has its own symbol: A ballot paper with a black cross across it.

This general elections, the  Palghar district received most number of NOTA votes, i.e. 2.46 per cent. It’s not  surprising that a only a meagre 2.46 per cent is the highest percentage for the option of NOTA. The Supreme Court in September 2013 upheld the right of voters to reject all candidates contesting the elections, in the 2013 elections.However,the option to showcase your dissent was never able to garner popularity. The aim of the NOTA was to increase voter participation, to allow voters to showcase their dissent, to compel political parties to field clean candidates and to modify their ideologies.

“It is a waste of vote”, that is what people told me when I informed them about my decision to vote NOTA. They were not entirely wrong, after all the NOTA only has a symbolic value as even if NOTA garners majority. The candidate receiving the maximum votes will win. Nevertheless, I remained firm on my decision.

Can it make a Difference?

“Negative voting will lead to a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates. If the right to vote is a statutory right, then the right to reject a candidate is a fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution,” said a bench headed by then Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam.

A vote is never wasted. Casting your vote to someone or something in this case is not redundancy. Rather, it’s an expression of your opinion, a form of protest against disillusionment  and a dissent against lack of less choices. A good democracy is not the one which provides you a right to choose in its nominal terms. But a right to choose in real terms, where a space to express dissent exists. Where priorities of people are resonated in the campaigns. India has always seen an upward graph in terms of voter turnout. And this comes with an assumption that we are happy with our choices or perhaps a lack of it.

In the 1990 elections that led to the break of Soviet Union, the Soviet version of “none of above” led to new elections with new candidates in 200 races of the 1,500-seat Congress of People Deputies. The right to choose and right to reject existed and won simultaneously

Yes, it’s only a symbolic option because we have agreed to show blind trust in the system, even if we don’t agree with it. It will make a difference if we don’t consider it a ‘candidate’ who does not contest election. Doesn’t campaign seeking votes and doesn’t even file a nomination but can disenchant us from what strength of democracy means.

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