The results of the recently concluded 2018 assembly polls have initiated discourses around the possible outcomes of the upcoming 2019 general elections. With Congress statistically outperforming BJP in three states- Rajasthan, MP, and Chhattisgarh, political pundits are writing obituary on the Modi wave and the invincibility spell of the BJP. The speculations and predictions based on the recent electoral results appear to have ignored the most crucial factor that stood out in these state elections- the increased preference of None Of The Above (NOTA) option.
Based on the calculations of the Election Commission, NOTA (None of the above option) has crossed the victory margin of the 22 winning constituencies in Madhya Pradesh. According to the information available on Election Commission’s website, the NOTA votes ranged as high as 2.1% in Chhattisgarh to 0.5% in Mizoram.
Nearly 5,42,295 voters chose to press the NOTA button instead of voting for the contesting parties willing to govern them. The ones to be governed, clearly found it easier to click on the NOTA option on the EVM. This share of vote roughly accounted for 1.4% of the total number of votes casted. While a lot of discussion has focused around the reasons behind Congress’ victory and BJP’s defeat, the aspect of NOTA has had a fatal focus.
Back in 2013, seats where NOTA’s share was more than the victory margin accounted to 26. In 2018, this share went down to 23. Despite a gap of fiver years, the distribution hasn’t gone down significantly. Undoubtedly, the political geography of India seems to be changing. This result is not only being used to judge the battleground of 2019, prima facie, but it is also indicative of people’s preference.
On one hand, while the paradigm has visibly shifted from 15 years of BJP rule to a comeback of Congress, the other hand highlights the fact that the voters aren’t happy with either of the contesting parties. The question that now arises is much broader, deeper and complex! Are the governed happy with the choices they are being offered? Are they choosing the best available option or are they choosing the less worse out of the worst? Because in the end, a negative vote still counts as a vote.
Perhaps, it is the time to change the electoral focus from ‘who is winning’ to ‘whom do people want to be governed by?’ or ‘whether they want to be governed by the available options at all?’ Assembly election 2018 has its answer. The answer rests in the hands of NOTA as it has gained a majority more than other contesting parties like AAP and Samajwadi party. There is a certain vacuum of unfulfilled desires and expectations of voters which has led to the hefty preference towards NOTA. This preference has not only promoted Mr. Gandhi to the rank of a serious/important rival but it has managed to revive the Indian democracy from an apparent presidential electoral system to a more conventional electoral system.
At the moment, as the grand old party embraces its win and the saffron brigade tried to swallow the bitter defeat; NOTA questions the democracy, ‘victory or vacuum?’