If None of the Above (NOTA) were a political party, it would garner the third highest number of votes in Gujarat. As reported, NOTA received more votes than the Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat, which of course speaks tons about the dilapidated condition of AAP. However, my aim is to put forward my opinion on the usage of NOTA. Many propound the usefulness of this particular option as a way to exhibit one’s ‘Right to Reject’ and ‘Right to Dissent’. I argue against these fancy statements.
NOTA received a total of 1.8% of votes in the state which is to say more than 5.5 lakh voters, more than any other party excluding the BJP and Congress. It resulted in the number of votes for NOTA being more than the victory margin in 30 seats. Out of these 30 seats, 15 were won by the BJP, 13 by the Congress and 2 were won by independent candidates.
NOTA is, in fact, an alternative to an earlier procedure to reject a candidate – Section 49(O), Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961. The voter had to inform the presiding officer and ask for Form 17A to cast his vote in favour of none, which revealed the voter’s identity. NOTA keeps the basic principle of secret balloting intact. You may seem to feel spellbound that your vote might be a contribution to no one winning the election, however that is not the case. Let us take a hypothetical example.
Suppose two candidates, one from BJP and one from Congress fight an election. The voters however, mostly vote for NOTA. This results in NOTA receiving 1000 votes, BJP- 1 vote and Congress- 0 votes. The fact is that the BJP candidate will be declared the winner. This is because NOTA is of ZERO electoral value. The one vote which BJP received shall overrule 1000 NOTA votes!(I purposely gave Congress 0 votes so that they don’t claim a ‘Moral Victory’ in this example too.) If the percentage of NOTA votes exceeds 50% in an election, the elections are cancelled and re-elections are conducted. Is this not a wastage of tax money and administrative machinery? Moreover, if elections are cancelled, a deserving candidate is snatched away the right to lead his people. The period to conduct re-election will not be immediate. Hence, the Code of Conduct shall be extended in the state/country, which in turn will result in policy paralysis for the time period. NOTA hence takes a heavy toll on many.
I am of the opinion that if one were to vote NOTA in an election, he/she might not as well turn up to vote altogether. What sense does it make to stand in a long queue only to cast a vote which has 0 value?
In a democracy, it is the right of the citizens to choose their representatives. One may argue that since none of the candidates are worthy enough, hence clicking ‘None of the Above’ is useful. However, the fact remains that at the end of the day it is one of those candidates who will win the election. Irrespective of how unworthy they are, they will enjoy power, with or without your support. I do agree that it keeps the political parties at their toes and they choose candidates much wisely. NOTA would in fact have been very effective had it been a negative vote. But since that is not what it is, the contribution of NOTA voters to any election is nil.
People do feel that they are exercising their right to reject all candidates, however they must bear in mind the fact that their vote poses no danger to the electoral process. And if we were to superstitiously believe that no one will be elected, whose defeat would it rather be? The candidates’, or ours’? At the end, it would be the people who would be left without representation, only to invite re-election. Hence, the Right to Reject serves a democracy only in spirit, not in practice.