The “None of the above” (NOTA) made a decent debut in Bengal, with the state ranking eighth in the country and Calcutta South second among the metro constituencies.
The option got 28,000 votes in two Calcutta constituencies — the fifth largest share after that of the Trinamul Congress, CPM, BJP and the Congress.
Across the state, Bankura tops the list of districts, with 1.91 per cent voters exercising the NOTA option.
The NOTA, also known as “against all” or a “scratch” vote, made its Lok Sabha poll debut this year. The Election Commission had introduced it as an option on the electronic voting machine last year.
What made the NOTA a viable option for so many voters in Calcutta?
Many youths who pressed NOTA told Metro that the opportunity of exercising the franchise without pledging support to any party or candidate drew them to the option.
“I did not want to vote for any of the candidates. At the same time I did not want my vote to be wasted. So I pressed NOTA,” said 27-year-old Athena Mondal, an editor with a publishing house in Delhi, who flew down to the city to exercise her option.
“The NOTA is an effective instrument to change the system, which badly needs to be changed. It has opened with a one per cent vote share. Maybe it will go up to five or 10 in the next general elections,” said Ananya Basu, 28, who has flown down to cast her vote from Madhya Pradesh, where she works for an NGO.
While Basu and Mondal pressed the NOTA because of their “commitment to changing the system”, some others did so for other reasons.
Thirty-year-old Arijit Sen, the chief technology officer of an IT start-up, opted for the NOTA because he was confused at the booth. “I would have voted for the party whose policies I support. But on entering the booth I got a little confused and opted for NOTA,” said Sen.
For 28-year-old sports management professional Ruru Chowdhury, the NOTA is needed to keep the government clean. “I’m sure all the parties in the fray would want the one per cent votes in Calcutta North or the 1.66 per cent votes in Calcutta South that went to the NOTA. That should encourage them to field better candidates next time.”
There are opposing views, too. S.L. Rao, a Bangalore-based sociologist and The Telegraph columnist, feels NOTA does not serve any “real” purpose. “It simply brings down the number of votes cast. I do not see a bright future for the NOTA,” said Rao, a former director-general of the National Council for Applied Economic Research.