Ranchi, May 17: The “None of the above” (NOTA) button, which appears at the bottom of EVMs, was a hit in its election debut in Jharkhand with the state ranking fifth in terms of the number of voters who used the option.
NOTA got 1,90,927 votes in the tribal heartland, more than at least 10 political parties, including AAP, JD(U), BSP, CPI, CPM and Samajwadi Party.
The percentage of Jharkhand voters who exercised the option was 1.5 per cent, higher than the national average of 1.1 per cent, but lower than what was recorded in Narendra Modi’s home state — in Gujarat, where 1.8 per cent voters opted for NOTA, came third along with Chhatisgarh and Union Territory Dadra and Nagar Haweli.
Pondicherry, where the NOTA vote share was 3 per cent, has come first followed by Meghalaya (2.8 per cent).
Bihar was in fourth place with 1.6 per cent.
Apart from Jharkhand, Mizoram, Odisha and Union Territory Daman and Diu recorded 1.5 per cent.
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 EVM last year.
What made the NOTA a viable option for so many voters in Jharkhand?
“For educated people, choosing the right candidate is very difficult. We read newspapers, watch the news on TV and form opinions. Then it becomes very difficult to vote for a non-deserving person. I now realise why my mother never used to vote, because she did not like anybody from the long list of candidates. This time, both of us opted for NOTA and was happy that we could exercise our franchise without actually voting for a candidate,” said 25-year-old Ranchi girl Riddhi Choudhary, who recently got a researcher’s job with a leading advertisement agency in Mumbai.
Manzar Imam (21), who works at a computer hardware company in Ranchi, said he, along with two of his elder brothers, had pressed on the NOTA button.
“My elder brother Nayeem, who stays in Delhi, says that if not immediately, NOTA will get noted in five years’ time. He had come to cast his vote and so we all went for NOTA. Though I was a little confused because my friends had made up their minds to vote for a regional party, at last I chose to go with my brother,” Manzar added.
A.K. Singh, secretary of LEADS, a non-government organisation that was associated with the “Wada Na Todo Abhiyan” campaign launched before the polls to prepare a “People’s Manifesto”, said: “A micro-level analysis on the basis of Assembly segments can throw light on what kind of people opted for NOTA. Such a survey can be helpful for politicians if they wish to know why that many people chose not to vote for them.”
There are opposing views also. “I don’t think it (the NOTA option) serves any purpose. What difference does it make? It is better to cast a vote for an individual,” said H. Singh (47), a reader with a noted city college, who did not vote this time.