Prelims level : Polity and Governance Mains level : GS-II Governance, Social Justice and IR
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Why in News:

The percentage of votes for NOTA, or the none-of-the-above option, this year has remained virtually unchanged from last time, according to data from the Election Commission (EC) website.


  • In 2019, about 1.04% of the voters felt that none of the candidates deserved their vote. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, this was around 1.08% of the voters.
  • The 2019 Lok Sabha elections stretched over six weeks and registered the highest voter turnout in the history of the Lok Sabha election.


  • None Of The Above (NOTA) is a ballot option designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system.
  • It was introduced in India following the 2013 Supreme Court directive in the People’s Union
    for Civil Liberties v. Union of India judgment.
  • However, NOTA in India does not provide for a ‘right to reject’.
  • The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.

What is the current pattern of NOTA?

  • NOTA polling figures are still small.
  • In the 2013 Assembly elections held in four States NOTA constituted 1.85% of the total votes polled.
  • Then it dropped to 0.95% in the 2014 Assembly elections held in eight States.
  • It increased to 2.02% in the 2015 Assembly elections held in Delhi and Bihar. While Delhi polled a mere 0.40%, Bihar saw 2.49% of NOTA votes, which remains the highest NOTA votes polled so far in any State in Assembly elections.
  • The number of NOTA votes polled was larger than the winning margin in 261 Assembly constituencies and in 24 constituencies in the Lok Sabha elections since 2013.
  • Therefore, in these constituencies the NOTA votes did make a difference to the election results. Reserved constituencies – Reserved constituencies have seen a relatively larger number of NOTA votes. This point to the continued social prejudice against political reservation for SC/STs. Left-Wing Areas – Constituencies affected by left-wing extremism have also recorded higher NOTA performance and here probably it served as an instrument of protest against the State itself.
  • Mainstream Parties – It is comparatively higher in the constituencies which have seen a direct contest between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. This might be some indication of the people’s disenchantment with two mainstream political parties.
  • NOTA is also used to express their protest against many things they perceive wrong in the political system.

What is the way ahead?

  • So far, a small number of Indian voters have come to see NOTA as an instrument of protest. The perceived cynicism of Indian voters against the political class thus seems exaggerated. Nevertheless, it is important to note that these voters have used the democratic means of NOTA to express their resentment rather than boycotting the polls outright. This electoral option will become a meaningful means of negative voting only if it becomes a ‘right to reject’ rather than being a symbolic instrument to express resentment as it is now.
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