Surprise Winner of Assembly Elections 2017? Say Hello to NOTA

None of the above. The option to choose not to vote for any political candidate in an election. And in Assembly Elections 2017, nearly 9 lakh voters across the country made that choice.

In Uttar Pradesh, nearly 7 lakh of the electorate decided not to vote for any political party or candidate.

NOTA polled nearly 1% of the vote share in the state which has 403 Assembly constituencies. This is more than established political parties like Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM, which got 0.2% of the vote, or 2 lakh votes.

Politically, this brings NOTA to the forefront in an unprecedented manner, since the option had almost no impact in Lok Sabha elections in 2014.

Vote share of NOTA in Uttar Pradesh is higher than AIMIM’s. (Photo: Election Commission of India)

In Uttarakhand, NOTA Wins Over Smaller Parties

Vote share of NOTA in Uttar. (Photo: Election Commission of India)

In Uttarakhand, NOTA got a 1% vote share or nearly 50,000 votes, winning over Uttarakhand Kranti Dal which got a measly 0.7%.

Similar trends were also seen in Punjab, where NOTA’s vote share was 0.7% and Goa where NOTA won a substantial 1.2% of the total vote share.

A Waste of Universal Franchise?

But is NOTA worth it?

The Election Commission considers NOTA votes ‘invalid’, even though the votes are counted. So, in a constituency, 8 out of 10 people can vote NOTA, but there would still be a winner – the candidate who gets 2 votes. Effectively then, NOTA has no impact on election results, unless all voters in a constituency choose to vote NOTA. This is why most political analysts state that NOTA is a waste of individual franchise.

Whether voters continue to embrace NOTA, or reject a choice which essentially leaves them with no agency to choose their representative remains to be seen. But in the NOTA saga, Assembly elections 2017 will surely be remembered as a landmark.