Electors can reject all the candidates by pressing a button marked NOTA (None of the Above) in Electronic Voting Machine. This was introduced for the first time in the recent Loksabha elections after a Supreme Court judgement.
Like many others, I wondered if people would use this option or abstain from voting when they do not trust any candidate. I also suspected that very few voters would know about and understand this option. Pleasantly, I am wrong!
So far only Tamil Nadu has published Form-20, that too only for 27 out of 39 parliamentary constituencies. Form-20 gives details of votes polled by each candidate. Count of NOTA in these constituencies ranges between 4,150 and 46,559; 0.42% to 5% of the total votes polled. The graph below shows the counts of NOTA in different ranges:
In 25 out of 27 constituencies, 0.5 to 2% of the total votes polled are NOTA. In Nilgiris, from where Mr. A. Raja of 2G scam contested, 5% of the voters (46,559) have chosen NOTA. This is a significant number. Here, only the winning candidate and the runner-up have got more votes than NOTA. In other constituencies, irrespective of the number of candidates (which varied from 8 to 38 in a constituency), only 3, 4, 5, or 6 candidates have scored more than NOTA. People have clearly rejected the candidates rather than voting undeserving.
In the coming elections more people may choose NOTA. Winning margins in Tamil Nadu have been huge in most of the constituencies and NOTA count is not anywhere close to the winning margin. This may not be the case in other states. This may not be the case in future elections.
ECI does not have a policy on actions based on such data. When large numbers of citizens reject all the candidates, and if that is not actionable information, meaning of the option dilutes. By exercising the option in the first opportunity, voters have sent a message to the aspirant politicians and the ECI.
We hope for some action plan and meaningful action.