HT, 22 May 2016, Kolkata: The ‘None Of The Above’ ( NOTA) option on EVMs, which allows voters to exercise their right not to vote in favour of any of the contesting candidates, has become the fourth largest contender in most of the constituencies in Bengal, leaving political parties such as BSP and SUCI and independent candidates way behind.
While in Bengal NOTA secured the fourth rank in most of the constituencies after Trinamool, Left-Cong alliance and BJP, the scenario was much the same in three out of four other states – Puducherry, Assam and Tamil Nadu – where Assembly elections were recently held.
Kerala was an exception with a poor NOTA share. In Assam more votes were cast in favour of NOTA than the Trinamool.
Of the 6.55 crore electors in Bengal, more than eight lakh voters seemed to be exasperated with the leaders and didn’t want to vote for any candidate. They opted for the NOTA option. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls a little above five lakh voters had opted for NOTA in the state.
While the vote share of NOTA has jumped from 1.1% in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when it was first introduced in EVMs and ballot papers, to 1.5% in the recently-held 2016 Assembly polls in the state, in Puducherry the vote share of NOTA was the highest with 1.7% among all the five states. Kerala recorded the lowest NOTA share with just 0.5%.
“In Bengal, political parties such as SUCI and CPI and independent candidates got fewer votes than NOTA. While the vote share of NOTA was 1.5%, SUCI could secure only 0.7% votes and CPI – an ally of the Left Front – got 1.4% votes,” said a senior official of the poll panel.
In Bhawanipore from where Mamata Banerjee won the polls, NOTA ranked 4th with 2,461 votes. In a few constituencies such as Darjeeling, NOTA secured more than 5,000 votes.
The Election Commission introduced the NOTA option on EVMs and all other ballot papers in October 2013 after a Supreme Court order that year.
“The main objective of the NOTA option is to enable voters who do not wish to vote for any of the candidates to exercise the right note to vote for any candidate. It helps maintain voters’ secrecy,” said the official.
NOTA made its debut in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Approximately 59.59 lakh voters across the country, which made up 1.1 % votes polled, had made the NOTA their choice.
The symbol appears in the last panel on all EVMs and ballot papers. The option has been also allocated a symbol for voters to identify it easily.