26 March 2016

NOTA: Just Another Myth in Indian Politics?


"Donald duck is a big bird in politics."

"Mickey always gets votes."

Did these statements startle you? Then you should definitely read on.

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If you don't think of Donald Duck as a political figure, you aren't aware of Swedish politics. With apologies to Bugs Bunny, SpongeBob SquarePants, and even Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck has a fine tradition of scoring high in Swedish national elections. Whereas in California, Donald Duck is a close second to Mickey. If you've already taken me to be a riddle-talking psychopath then let me elucidate a bit more on the system of protest voting in several European nations including Sweden, Finland, UK and also in America.

A protest vote is a vote which is caste in an election to demonstrate the caster's dissatisfaction with the choice of candidates in his constituency. This may explicitly imply either a requirement of immediate change in candidature in his constituency or overall grievance against the whole system.

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Closer to home, Bangladesh introduced the option of  না ভোট“ (no vote) in 2008. Pakistan too introduced this option on the ballot paper for the 2013 Pakistan elections, but the Election Commission of Pakistan later rejected it. When such an insertion is made, there is a possibility of “no vote” receiving a majority, in which case a variety of formal procedures may be invoked, including office remaining vacant or holding fresh elections.

Introduction of NOTA (None Of The Above) in India has been hailed by many to be a spectacular step towards capturing the true spirit of democracy. However, whether NOTA can be described as an “electoral renaissance” still remains uncertain as NOTA is simply a right to register a negative opinion and not a right to reject. This means that even if there are 99 NOTA votes out of a total of 100, and candidate X gets just one vote, X emerges as the winner. Hence giving citizens the right to reject will ensure the two-fold purpose of candidates with a clean background as well as inducing citizens to cast their vote.                                                                                                                                                                                               
The  decision of the Supreme Court of India in PUCL vs. UOI, is no doubt a watershed judgement that changes the face of Indian electoral process by reducing ‘rigging’ of votes. However, it falls short of achieving the democratic goals that the citizens of India are entitled to. A major criticism against this is that citizens would rather refrain from voting than standing in the queue for hours only to register their disagreement, which ultimately makes no difference whatsoever. And this is when one feels the quintessential need for the RIGHT TO REJECT (Rule 49-0).

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Introducing NOTA in the electronic voting machines is no doubt a major step in reforming electoral procedures, bringing it closer to the end a democracy seeks to achieve (well that “end” is again a much debated issue, and I soon plan to write an article on the same). However its true effect and purpose can be realized only when it is allowed to be used in its complete and free sense, i.e. not only the right to register a negative vote but also the right to reject.


A bibliophile, writer and a passionate music lover, Utsa Ghosh, is seeking her majors in English from St. Xavier's College. At the same time she takes a keen interest in politics  and is a vehement supporter of social and political reformism in India.