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Taking note of NOTA

NOTA (None of the Above) has seen its fair share of votes at election time, be it at the last two Lok Sabha polls and the various state assembly polls over the last few years. But are people happy with the importance accorded to it? NT BUZZ finds out

Christine Machado

The verdict is out. The people have chosen their leaders. With the BJP sweeping the Lok Sabha polls, winning majority in many parts of the country, the result was met with varying degrees of emotions by people all over. In Goa, while the BJP won three out of four in the bypolls, it also retained the North Goa Lok Sabha seat. Interestingly however the NOTA option also got a fair amount of attention garnering 7063 votes in North Goa Parliamentary Constituency and 5419 votes in South Goa Parliamentary Constituency. This is a surge in the number of NOTA votes since the last Lok Sabha election in 2014 when North Goa Parliamentary Constituency saw 5770 votes and South Goa Parliamentary Constituency saw 4333 votes, as per reports.

NOTA was introduced in 2013 by a Supreme Court order as a means of recognising a citizen’s right to not vote and maintain the confidentiality of that choice. It was also seen as a way of allowing voters to express their discontent with the choice of candidates and compelling political parties to nominate a good enough candidate.

Prior to its inclusion in the EVMs, a voter could record his vote under Section 49-O (None of the Above) but had to inform the presiding officer at the election booth. This however meant that his or her choice was no longer confidential.

However, the number of votes that NOTA secures, at the moment, does not affect the election results. Even if it manages to secure the highest number of votes, the candidate who secures the highest number after this is chosen as the winner. In such a scenario, is this option good enough as it stands? Or do amendments need to be made?

A voter chooses a candidate as per the candidate’s past records and capabilities. NOTA should not be just a symbol. It should have some significance. If a certain fixed number of voters are not happy with the candidates and opt for NOTA then the candidates should be changed.

– Orson Dias, Margao

It’s a very good tool for people who want to exercise their right and perform social duty.

However it doesn’t suffice the purpose as no much weightage is given to NOTA.

In order to know the real strength of democracy NOTA should be used as a tool, ie if NOTA receives the maximum number of votes then none of the candidates should be allowed to re-contest for re-elections.

 – Raghuvir Mahale, Panaji

Since India has a multi-party system, it gives an opportunity to citizens/parties having different ideas, principles, to contest elections. Our ideas, principles, etc, might find a match in one of these parties. Even if the ideas, principles, etc, don’t match it’s necessary to vote for the best candidate because ultimately, one of them will play a crucial role in making laws for the country or state. By using NOTA , one might get the wrong candidate to power. NOTA is not considered as a candidate so it does not matter what the number is. It’s mostly because of a lack of option that people pick NOTA. But I would also say that it’s the lack of awareness about the candidates. For example, for the Panaji bypoll we had six candidates, but people didn’t even know who some of them were.

– Klain Simoes, St Inez

Personally, it’s a good principle set for people who think none of the candidates deserve their votes, but would like to exercise their right. At the moment, it’s not very effective and practical, in the sense that hypothetically if NOTA gets the highest votes, the candidate with the second highest votes is the winner. For NOTA to make some difference there have to be some necessary amendments made to facilitate that or drop it off completely. For example, if NOTA receives more votes than a candidate, he or she should not be allowed to participate in the next election. Or if NOTA has the highest votes, then have re-elections.

– Antonio Barreto, Mapusa

In theory, NOTA is a great idea, the perception that a voter has complete choice to reject all options if need be, but is that really how the world works? Those votes are ultimately counted as invalid, so it’s a waste, unless of course everyone uses that option, but then it’s the same election process again with maybe new candidates. As it is, it is hard to get people to come out and vote. People’s mindset is the real issue. We need to evolve our consciousness. Everyone wants democracy, freedom of speech, rights and entitlement but not many want to take up responsibility and accountability. It’s always the government or someone else’s fault or duty, even simple things like picking up our own garbage is a burden. This is one of the things that gives way to corruption. Many are only focused on the election day, it’s like their only prerogative, “I’ll press a button and my job is done”.

 – Malcolm Phimster, Siolim

The purpose of NOTA should be to empower  voters to demand for a re-election with a new set of candidates across party lines. Sadly, NOTA in India, in its current form, doesn’t serve that purpose. It’s considered more like a wasted vote and we end up following the age-old procedure of choosing the lesser evil. NOTA must be empowered further to ensure that political parties field competent candidates with an impeccable record of probity in service. Re-elections must be facilitated if NOTA gets more than a particular percentage of votes, and further the expenses for the re-elections must be borne by all the losing candidates or their parties.

– Eby John, Panaji

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