Very few political analysts are addressing the issue of NOTA or “None of the Above” votes cast in elections…15,633 Goans voted NOTA in the just over elections.
BY JOSHUA GEORGE
WHAT is NOTA and does it affect the fortunes of a winning or losing candidate? In the recently concluded 2022 Goa Legislative Assembly elections I was astounded by the announcement of the NOTA figures at the venue where the counting of votes was going on at the Government Polytechnic at Altinho in Panaji on March 10, 2022. NOTA means or is the acronym for “None of the Above” — it’s a feature created in an election that enables a voter to protest, indicate that he or she is not interested in voting for any of the candidates contesting in the election.
BUT NOTA doesn’t guarantee the dismissal of a winning candidate, it is only a method offering important feedback. It is simply an option exercised by voters to specify disapproval or disgust for all the contesting candidates, that none are fit to be in the government. NOTA was first introduced in the 2013 assembly elections of four states, namely Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh and the Union Territory of Delhi. Before NOTA was introduced a candidate had the exclusive right to reject all candidates but couldn’t register it on the EVM voting machines.
In the 2017 assembly elections Goa came out on top when it came to voters pressing the NOTA button. 1.2% of the vote share took the NOTA option which was followed by 1% in Uttarakhand. The 2022 Goa assembly elections witnessed 1.12% of the vote share opting for the NOTA option. This totals to 15,633 voters expressing displeasure or lack of confidence in any of the candidates!
What do these NOTA figures tell us? Do they have any bearing on the outcome of a candidate winning or losing from a particular constituency? If you crack the numbers and do the math, it hasn’t really influenced the outcome in any constituency.
Interestingly, Poriem, which registered the largest winning margin of close to 14,000 votes, also registered the highest number of NOTA figures at 542 votes. Add those numbers to the six other candidates that contested against the winner Divya Rane and the tally stills falls short by a whopping 6,387 votes.
On the other hand, the lowest NOTA figures registered were in the port town of Mormugao with merely 107 votes. This certainly had no outcome on the result. In capital city Panaji where Utpal Parrikar made an impressive debut against the seasoned Atanasio Monseratte 173 NOTA votes registered. Utpal and Babush were neck-to-neck in the battle for Panaji, with the difference in vote share percentage being just 4%. Though small, the NOTA figures in Panaji would certainly offer insight into what dissatisfied constituents think about political candidates.
Besides Babush Monserrate and Utpal Parrikar (an Ivy League College graduate with several patents to his name), the Panaji hot seat was also contested by Elvis Gomes, a former IAS officer who held several important positions in the Goan administration. Despite the educated candidates on offer, a seasoned veteran, an IAS officer and the son of a former chief minister and union defence minister — 173 voters were unhappy! Is this just a lack of trust in any candidate or refusal to see anyone fit for power?
In the key constituency of Sanquelim, where Chief Minister Pramod Sawant edged the Congress candidate of Dharmesh Saglani by just 66 votes, NOTA votes registered at 286. In terms of vote share percentage Porvorim registered the highest NOTA percentage of 2.23%.