With the recently revealed election results, Congress emerged as the single largest party in the Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh and took back the helm from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. While the significant comeback of India’s main Opposition party Congress is a talk of the town, how NOTA or the “None of the Above” (NOTA) option clearly established itself to be a plot twister in elections, too grabbed the spotlight. How this fair performance will help Congress enthrone electoral victory in 2019 Lok Sabha polls is a time-sensitive subject; in the meantime, why the ruling party BJP or the Opposition parties including Congress must focus on impressing the NOTA voters to secure upcoming polls is quite evident.
NCP leader Majid Memon stated, “Not only Congress, but it’s the duty of every consensus political party to see to it that the NOTA option should get a very negligible share of votes. If people abstain from casting their vote or expressing their displeasure on all the candidates, it’s not a good sign for a healthy democracy.”
The election outcome in Madhya Pradesh (230 seats) was a neck-to-neck fight between both the leading political parties; Congress stalled two seats behind the majority mark of 116 and managed to emerge as the single largest party with only five seats more than what BJP secured. The party will now push itself to the government forming power with the support of all four independent winners. On the other hand, Rajasthan gave a clear mandate to Congress with 99 seats and Rashtriya Lok Dal with one while the alliance was one mark away from claiming majority — the state has given only 73 seats to BJP, 6 seats to BSP, 2 seats for CPI(M), 13 seats for the independents, and other parties secured 5. Chhattisgarh, where the majority mark was 46, was a good lesson for the ruling party as in the 90-member assembly, BJP only managed to keep 15 seats safe while Congress has won 68 seats.
While the slimming vote share as compared to the 2013 Assembly polls of these states and 2014 Lok Sabha polls looks worrying for BJP, the increased NOTA votes played a key role in making the election tough to crack for the saffron party. BJP washed its hands off from 56 seats in MP and Congress increased its count by 56. BJP has lost 89 seats in Rajasthan and 34 seats in Chhattisgarh as compared to 2013 assembly polls. Even in Telangana, the saffron party’s vote share in the 2018 assembly elections is 1.5 per cent less than what it got during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
BJP Spokesperson Avadhut Wagh asserted, “NOTA is an additional choice given to the voters and this is as per the Election Commission norms. If more than 50 per cent people vote for NOTA, there will be a re-poll in that particular constituency. We are not only going to convince the NOTA voters but all of the voters.”
Meanwhile, the winning margins this year too saw a dip. As per the Election Commission reports, in Rajasthan, at least 15 constituencies polled more NOTA votes than the victory margin of the winning candidates and this indicates that the total votes that NOTA drew in itself could have given 7 to 8 more seats to either the Congress or the BJP. For example, Rajasthan BJP’s Kalicharan Saraf won by 1,704 votes from Malviya Nagar constituency and NOTA was exercised by 2,371 voters in the same seat. Similarly, independent candidate Khushveer Singh defeated BJP’s Kesaram Choudhary on Marwar Junction seat by 251 votes against 2,719 NOTA and the Kushalgarh constituency of Banswara district recorded highest 11,002 NOTA votes.
Spokesperson of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) Atul Londhe expressed, “It’s really a very serious matter to be taken into consideration and we are definitely thinking on that. High NOTA vote share is a negative thing for a democratic setup. Election tickets should be given to a candidate who will really work hard amongst the people and this is what Rahul Gandhi thinks while giving the responsibilities; although, sometimes the candidate fails to be accepted by some section of the voters.”
“One person cannot expect to get a 100 per cent vote share. We definitely oppose the concept of NOTA because there should be a clear rejection or acceptance for the candidate and this should be the principle of a democracy,” Londhe added.
The results have given Congress a clear jump over BJP. Given that, it’s the time that the country’s oldest party starts working on the issues highlighted by them in its election manifesto i.e. agrarian distress, lack of jobs, post demonetisation and GST disappointment. More than that, for repeating the winning spree in Lok Sabha Polls and become the choice of the majority with a massive margin, Rahul Gandhi needs to be more focussed on gathering the NOTA voters in Congress’ favour.
AAP leader Ravi Srivastava said, “A large number of population is totally disappointed and frustrated. The NOTA means there is no alternative and the voters cannot decide whether these contesting candidates deserve their votes or not. The political parties should stop fielding the candidates who have got serious criminal cases against them and instead, look for clean candidates who are potentially sharp people. Once a criminal goes to the Parliament and the Assembly, he becomes a liability for the nation.”
Srivastava added, “People should be made aware that instead of NOTA, they can always go for candidates who have a clean image or whom they feel can be good and will serve people and vote accordingly because NOTA is only a waste of votes and in a democratic process, this shouldn’t happen.”