Monday, September 27, 2021
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Political parties must not disregard the power of NOTA

From Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, despite popular vote, the NOTA option made the contest difficult for the BJP. This is something all the political parties must take a note of. The outcome of the recently held Assembly election has for the first time clearly established the power of the “None of the Above” (NOTA) option and provided evidence that it can play a significant role in a major election in the country. NOTA is a voting option one can choose when one does not want to cast vote for any of the contesting candidates. It is believed that this feature would be helpful in the long run. Most of the people think that casting a NOTA vote is as same as not casting any vote in the election. Well, NOTA mean that you have the power to reject the contesting candidates and specify your revolt. India entered into the ‘NOTA age’ in 2013, after the Supreme Court’s judgement in People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) & Anr vs Union of India & Anr, in which it directed the Election Commission of India to add the NOTA button to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). The court held that giving the voters the right not to vote for any candidate was extremely important in a democracy. The Law Commission of India and the Election Commission were also in favour of giving the voters the right to reject all the candidates.

The NOTA or None of the Above option appeared to have outperformed several political parties, including Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Samajwadi Party, which contested the assembly polls in the five states. NOTA votes ranged as high as 2.1 per cent in Chhattisgarh to 0.5 per cent in Mizoram. The AAP, which fielded its candidates on 85 seats out of 90 seats in Chhattisgarh, got 0.9 per cent of votes while NOTA votes were 2.1 per cent of the counted votes in the state. Similarly, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) got 0.2 per cent votes respectively in Chhattisgarh. The Communist Party of India (CPI) got 0.4 per cent votes in the state. In Madhya Pradesh, NOTA votes were 1.5 per cent of the total counted votes. Samajwadi Party got 1 per cent while AAP got 0.7 per cent votes. The NOTA votes in Rajasthan elections were 1.3 per cent. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and SP got 1.3 per cent and 0.2 per cent votes respectively. The AAP and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) received 0.4 per cent votes each in the state. In Telangana assembly polls, NOTA got 1.1 per cent of votes while NCP got 0.2 per cent of votes. The CPI(M) polled 0.4 per cent votes while CPI received 0.4 per cent votes. In Mizoram, NOTA got 0.5 per cent of votes while People’s Represent for Identity and Status of Mizoram (PRISM) got 0.2 per cent of votes.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was behind its main rival Congress in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. It was locked in a close contest with the opposition party in Madhya Pradesh.

When political parties will realise that a large number of people are expressing their disapproval with the candidates being put up by them, gradually there will be a systemic change and the political parties will be forced to accept the mandate of the people and field candidates who are known for their integrity. Since then, NOTA option has come into vogue in elections in the country.

When BJP came to power, we had hoped for a creative amendment to solve the disparity of the delivery of quota. Rich people who have a minority status have all benefits of quota and representation. But poor in general category is deprived, marginalised, dispossessed as new cases of minority status is being delivered to the dominant communities with an aim towards the vote bank. If Congress started quota and representation of minorities, should it be continued in a Congress-Mukt Bharat? General category is frustrated and most of them voted for NOTA.

If the status quo is maintained, the corrupt will come to power and all investigations regarding their scams will go to cold storage. Introspection is highly appreciated.

For a party that had appeared to be lost in the political wilderness over the past few years, Congress has plenty to cheer about recent results in the Assembly elections. In the three Hindi-speaking States, where it was locked in a direct contest with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress has performed more than creditably, raising hopes of a revival of fortunes as the country gears up for the general election in 2019. In Chhattisgarh, the party probably well exceeded even its own expectations by building a massive 10 percentage point lead over the BJP, setting itself up to win more than a two-thirds majority.

However, a strategy that wins elections may not necessarily suit governance, and that will be the immediate challenge before Rahul Gandhi. Picking a Chief Minister in Chhattisgarh will be relatively easy, but in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, it is going to be a tough call. Balancing the need for a generational shift with respecting the wishes of the veterans will test Gandhi. Balancing his social justice politics with the upper caste claims within the party is also tricky terrain, which will now get trickier. The Congress has placed itself firmly as the nucleus of any anti-BJP formation, at the national level, in 2019. This will trigger fresh dynamics between the Congress and other non-BJP regional parties. Despite their claims of anti-BJP credentials, entrenched regional parties will not accommodate the Congress easily. A resurgent Congress alarms them even more.

If anything, after the massive victory of regional parties in Telangana and Mizoram, regional parties will bargain hard with the Congress. Therefore, the challenge before Rahul Gandhi is to raise his own bargaining power vis-à-vis potential partners to buttress the position of the Congress as an alternative to the BJP — in vision and in governance. An alliance is not something that happens because one searches for it; it is something that happens when parties find it essential for self-preservation and advancement. The cause of final win for the Congress in three States namely MP, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh has to be directly attributed to the BJP’s toxic egotism and overt creation of divisive mindsets on religious lines. It is the time for the Congress, now, to wake up and take corrective steps to honour and mend their ways to deliver to the public expectations, well realising that they are the elected representatives of the country’s masses and not their bosses. Rahul Gandhi stayed focussed on the issues of the day, such as agrarian distress, lack of jobs, and problems caused due to demonetisation and GST. He further needs more focus and steady run behind the NOTA brigade.

With these big northern states in its bag in a single day, the outcome effectively put paid to the low-quality propaganda about “Pappu” versus “Chanakya”.

The BJP President used the innocuous sounding monikers bitingly while alluding to the Congress President in his speeches to underline Rahul’s supposed artlessness, inexperience, and importantly, makes the point that he was in politics as an inheritor and not as a self-made leader rising from the ranks like Narendra Modi. Let’s see how Congress deals with success and BJP handles the defeat.

(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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