NOTA or ‘None of the above’ is a ballot option that a voter can opt for if he or she is dissatisfied with the contesting candidates. The role of NOTA in India’s context can hold considerable importance if implemented constructively. 


None of the above, or NOTA for short, is a ballot option that allows the voter to not vote for any candidate, indicating disapproval of the contesting candidates. In India, NOTA was first introduced in 2013 to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in a State Assembly Election. India was the 14th country to introduce the ballot option of NOTA.  

Greece and Spain use the term ‘white vote’ to refer to NOTA, and in Argentina, it is called a blank vote. There are some countries that do not offer the voters the option of NOTA, but they choose to develop creative methods. For instance, Serbia did not have the option of NOTA, but a NOTA party was formed which won a seat with 22,000 votes. 

The option was introduced to encourage a high voter turnout. NOTA carries no arithmetic value and is considered a neutral or invalid vote which does not change the outcome of the election process. Former Chief Election Commissioner, OP Rawat, clearly stated that our country lacked the legal framework to implement NOTA and it would take about 100 years for NOTA to result in something meaningful.  Aayushi Sharma, a student of Jesus and Mary College said, “NOTA may seem like a good option to a few, but our country does not provide any concrete solution if NOTA gets the highest share of votes.” 

According to the existing rules, if in a constituency, NOTA gets the highest number of votes, the candidate with the next highest share becomes the winner. However, in November 2018, Maharashtra State Election Commissioner had passed an order claiming re-election if NOTA got the highest share of votes.  

This also brings into question how the electoral system followed in India can render NOTA votes as redundant or ineffective as a method of expressing disapproval at all the contesting candidates. India follows the First-past-the-post voting system, which, in the simplest of terms dictates that the candidate who gets the highest number of votes in a constituency wins the election. This applies if the candidate has won by a landslide in their constituency or even if they win by a hairbreadth, they will still get the seat.

Before getting into how this system theoretically renders NOTA ineffective, a look needs to be taken at how it affects the minorities of our country in getting adequate representation in Parliament. As this system does not give any importance to the total votes of the party but on how individual candidates have performed in their respective constituencies.  For example, in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got 37.36% of the vote but their seat share was much more at 303 while Indian National Congress (INC) with around 19% of the votes only had 52 seats. Similarly, Trinamool Congress with 4.07% of the votes had 22 seats while Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) had more seats (24) with just 2.26% of the total votes.

This system ensures that minorities in India which are widely spread throughout the country do not get adequate representation within the electoral system. It also renders NOTA vote as ineffective in all cases, as these votes are reduced to a mere symbolic representation of disapproval of all candidates and does not carry any real change. The idea suggested by Maharashtra State Election Commissioner while a step in the right direction will only be put in play in a very rare scenario where NOTA gets the highest share of votes. The Indian electoral system needs major overhauls to bring NOTA votes into play. To provide adequate minority representation and to preserve India as the world’s largest democracy.


Feature Image Credits: DNA India

Suhani Malhotra

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Prabhanu Kumar Das

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‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) was introduced in DUSU elections last year. Since then, it has gained popularity as represented by the number of voters opting for it. Here is a look at why this is happening.                                          

Three years and four rounds of national assembly elections ago, the ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option was inducted into the Indian electoral system. It was only in 2016 that the Delhi University Student’s Union (DUSU) election followed this trend. The concept of NOTA is democratic, as it gives the voter an option to reject an electoral candidate. It represents dissent and showcases that the voters are not satisfied with the particular candidates representing a specific manifesto in an election.

However, the question then arises: Is NOTA really influential practically? In our electoral system, NOTA in status quo, has no electoral value. Even if the situation emerges where NOTA gets more votes than any candidate in the elections, the candidate who has secured the highest number of votes after NOTA will still hold office. This expression of rejection through casting your vote guarantees no accountability, since it does not constitute a re-election or change in candidacy. The very fact that NOTA is emblematic is the dreadful reason why it cannot be successful in an illiterate and puerile democracy like ours, where charisma and ascendancy are given more significance than one’s ability to introduce and implement affirmative policies.

The foundation year for NOTA in the University of Delhi (DU) saw more than 16,000 votes being cast in its favour. This year, the number skyrocketed to a total of more than 29,000 votes. Even though NOTA is heavily symbolic, the fact that it is gaining traction within the university means that the students are getting tired of the aggressive and “rowdy” behaviour of the supporters of DUSU candidates. The students have finally been given a platform to express their dissent through the same. Across the university, students have often complained about their classes getting disrupted during campaigning, bribes in terms of free movies, trips and meals being offered to students living in Paying-Guest accommodations and so on. Political parties, allegedly, go as far as to distribute alcohol and chocolates to students one day before the elections. Many female students have come up and voiced their opinion about feeling unsafe in the campus during the time of elections, despite the tag of ‘women empowerment’ being included in every party’s manifesto. Repeated promises, no implementation and the ongoing tiff between the two leading parties (ABVP and NSUI) often create chaos in the university. It has affected the peaceful functioning of the University, and these thoughts of the students are very well resonated with the rise in the popularity of NOTA. Despite its shortcomings, NOTA, in theory, is imperative in terms of facilitating and allowing an expression of dissent; however, it still requires severe changes in its actual implementation.


Feature Image Credits: Anagha Rakta for DU Beat

Bhavya Banerjee
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Voting is an integral part of our college experience. By casting an informed vote, we embody the ideals of a democracy. Not a single vote cast consciously, is a waste.

In a particularly stimulating class discussion a few days before the elections, one of my professors declared that some “elite” colleges tend to think that keeping their students entirely out of university politics in the process of providing quality education, is the way to go. She then went on to say how she wished she had been more politicised in her college days. Within the ambit of a wholesome college education, student politics plays an important role.
As a second year student from a not very politically active college, who hadn’t cast her vote in first year, this conversation had an impact on me. Deeming politics a dirty game and disassociating oneself from it is not going to enhance the political scene. Like many others, I want a change in the political set up of the university. I want the existing miasma of coercion and cunning influence to be substituted by an atmosphere of free thinking and freedom of choice. But really, what value do my opinions hold, if they are not put into practice?

That is where casting a vote comes in. It is the democratic system’s way of allowing us a chance to put force to our beliefs. In an age where we don’t have the freedom of not having an opinion, it is our duty to support a candidate or a party whose opinion parallels that of ours. It is true that no party has a flawless manifesto or a completely blameless panel. However, we do have the discretion of narrowing down on one party whose belief system completely or even partially matches that of ours.

If we choose to remain completely unaffected by the politics of our varsity, we should ask ourselves this- Where is all the quality education going, if not to cultivate an opinionated and free thinking individual?

I read an article which declared that it is better to not vote entirely, rather than casting a misinformed one. In some ways it does make sense. Why must you vote for one party if you’re oblivious of its ideologies and of its history, and only rather charmed by a selfie stick that a party worker has curtly handed to you? However, we’re in an institution where opinions and information are suspended in every atom of air that we take in, and gaining information of the parties from multiple perspectives isn’t very difficult. Of course we don’t live in a Manichean framework. Disparaging between right and wrong isn’t easy. It is probably the duty that we bear to ourselves to assert our individual franchise, or that which we bear to our education that should ideally foster this self-consciousness within us, that should propel us to form an informed belief system. There will always be opposition to that belief, and we should consider the grounds on which they’re based. We may also change sides often, and our opinions may sway. Taking a side will not come quickly or easily, but we should at least try to get there.

Speaking of the NOTA option, 17,712 students voted NOTA this year. The figure is higher than the votes won by any of the four winning candidates. Such a large number of students declaring that they do not trust any of the candidates relay a powerful message. The various parties have to step up their game next year, if they want to win respectably. A NOTA vote is counted as an invalid vote, but it also grants the voter to voice her/his opinion against the existing system.

Whether voting for one party or voting against all, every ballot cast embodies a message from the voter. Each vote culminates into the end result. I personally wouldn’t cast NOTA, as I feel like I’m taking an easy way out. But as I have said, allegiances do not come easy and as college students range mostly from 18 to 21 years of age, simply casting a vote is a statement of assuming the duties of democratic citizens.

Suffrage is a privilege, that as a nation, we were deprived of for centuries. The initial arenas to practise our franchise are our educational institutes. Don’t waste or undermine this fundamental right.

Photo credits: www.indialive.com

Swareena Gurung
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