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Nota Bene, Nota!

India, Jan. 1 -- N. B. Or Nota Bene, a Latin phrase, means note well or mark well. A similar phenomenon has come into our electoral politics to warn our political aspirants and vote mongers to beware of the panic button.

NOTA is becoming a game changer, even a spoiler! This 'NONE OF THE ABOVE' button on the EVM became a good warning shot in the recent Gujarat Assembly election. 1.8% voters preferred to press the NOTA button, thereby playing spoiler in 30 seats. The dreams of the hopefuls and near hopefuls went down the drain.

As voters, let us remember that, just as we have the constitutional right to exercise our vote for a particular candidate of our choice, we also have the equal constitutional right to register our negative vote by saying: I reject the listed candidates. Hurrah!

NOTA's history goes back to California where in 1976 a Municipal Council passed a resolution to introduce NOTA. In 1978 the State of Nevada introduced it for the first time. In India in 2009 the Election Commission asked the Supreme Court to consider the matter favourably. The government opposed it due to its own political compulsions. The NGO, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), approached the Supreme Court with a PIL on the matter. On 27 th September 2013 the Apex Court gave the verdict in favour and ordered the Election Commission to make the needed adjustments on the EVM.

The Court wished the NOTA option would usher in a 'systemic change' by forcing political parties to put up clean candidates. The option is also meant to empower the voters to choose the option of rejecting all listed candidates if they consider them unworthy of their vote.

In India, the 2014 general election registered close to 60 lakh NOTA votes, according to reports. Territory-wise it varied. Puducherry and Meghalaya claimed 3% NOTA votes. While the Delhi assembly elections in 2015 NOTA noted 0.4%, Bihar assembly elections in the same year showed NOTA option of 2.4% voters.

The Tamil Nadu assembly election in 2016 showed that "the number of votes for NOTA exceeded the victory margin in 25 of the 232 seats, about 11%."

According to analysts, the NOTA performance in Gujarat indicates that there is the possibility of room for a third party or front in the state. NOTA can be a potent weapon to send a message down the spine of such power aspirants whose past non-performance or criminal records speak volumes. It may not wipe away the possibility of one of the listed candidates winning the election. Sadly so! It goes to say that in a constituency if there are 100 voters and 99 of them register their NOTA votes, still the one who gets just one vote gets declared the winner. An anomaly that needs to be tackled sooner or later.

The Election Commission was well aware that when the ballot papers were used, people used to register their displeasure or anger by scribbling nasty remarks to the extent that some would scribble: sab chor hain (all are thieves). But, all those ballot votes were rejected as invalid votes.

Published by HT Digital Content Services with permission from Indian Currents.

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Publication:Indian Currents
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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