Why NOTA Might Not be the Best Choice You are Making in a Democracy like India?

It was an interesting conversation between two of my colleagues. I couldn’t ignore it and hence thought of spending some time being a mute spectator to the conversation.

One of the colleague (Colleague 1) had a clear view of Indian politics. For him every politician was corrupt and he didn’t want to vote for anyone. And the other (Colleague 2) was a clear left leaning person.

Since my inclination was clearly towards the right, we often avoided conversations on politics.

But that wasn’t the case with this guy who had a more neutral view. He was the best available option for a discussion and since it wouldn’t lead to any spiraling issues, primarily because he wouldn’t be able to get a lot of support from people, he was the usual punching bag for most other so-called left and right wingers.

Nevertheless, the pretext of the conversation was like this.

Colleague 1 had bought a flat with all his hard earned savings, just a few months back. Just as it is with most middle class Aam-Aadmi, he could only afford a flat in a locality that was clearly outside city limits as per normal standards (but within City Limits as per the Builder). His apartment was around 29 KMs from the center of the city.

He had to ride back at midnight, from office. And everytime he would reach his locality, he would have to ride through an area of about 1.5 kms that was pitch dark with no streetlights and an extremely bad road (in fact there wasn’t anything left of what we could call a road).

He was cribbing his heart out for all the poor facilities and lack of basic infrastructural amenities in spite of he paying taxes regularly.

Hearing this, Colleague 2 who knew his politically neutral view, asked a blunt question, “Who did you vote for in the last assembly election”?

The response had a sense of pride in it, “NOTA”.

Pat came the reply, “Then be happy with ‘None of the Above‘. You don’t get anything”.

Now furious, Colleague 1 replied, “But I pay my taxes on time and I am entitled to all facilities”.

“You are right, you are entitled to all facilities”, Colleague 2 responded. “But who will get all that done when there is nobody to do it? You selected nobody to do it”.

Colleague 1 was clearly stumped and didn’t have a response.

All the 3 walked off, changing the topic to the usual cribbing about how we were being exploited at office.

NOTA – Is that really an Option?

Here is a little bit about NOTA, from Wikipedia,

The Election Commission of India told the Supreme Court in 2009 that it wished to offer the voter a “none of the above” option on ballots, which the government had generally opposed.[17] The People’s Union for Civil Liberties, a non-governmental organisation, filed a public-interest litigation statement in support of this.

On 27 September 2013, the Supreme Court of India ruled that the right to register a “none of the above” vote in elections should apply, and ordered the Election Commission to provide such a button in the electronic voting machines, noting that it would increase participation.

The Election Commission also clarified that even though votes cast as NOTA are counted, they are considered as invalid votes so they will not change the outcome of the election process. They are not taken into account for calculating the total valid votes and will not be considered for determining the forfeiture of deposit.

In the 2014 general election, NOTA polled 1.1% of the votes, counting to over 6,000,000.

The specific symbol for NOTA, a ballot paper with a black cross across it, was introduced on 18 September 2015. The symbol is designed by National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.

Now something that is of importance here is the below sentence,

The Election Commission also clarified that even though votes cast as NOTA are counted, they are considered as invalid votes so they will not change the outcome of the election process. They are not taken into account for calculating the total valid votes and will not be considered for determining the forfeiture of deposit.

So, in actuality NOTA doesn’t really make any difference. Neither to the candidates, nor to the election commission. It is as good as “not voting”, with the only difference that you get a sense of satisfaction that you voted and didn’t select any of the candidates.

NOTA

In a democracy like that of India, the majority party rules, even if that majority is by a 0.0001%.

So irrespective of who you voted for, the candidate who the majority voted for wins and you don’t have a choice but to accept it.

And if we are to go by the recently concluded Karnataka assembly polls, where the margin of defeat and victory was as low as 68 votes, a few people voting or, not voting can make a huge difference.

Why is NOTA not a Good Option?

Let us accept the fact that elections and politics has always knows to be full of corrupt and corruption.

Also let us accept the fact that elections are in most cases, a choice of selecting the “best worst alternative“.

When there are 2 candidates who are both corrupt, the choice is to pick the one that is the least corrupt.

Why?

Let me explain.

Firstly, you and me do not have the time to go out there and work for the constituency and implement the policies. We do not have the time to work towards the development of the constituency. If we had that time, we would have been in politics.

So, unless you pick somebody who can do something towards any of these, there is no point going to vote. And if you ever think of voting for “NOTA”, then remember that you are saying that you don’t want anybody to work on anything in your constituency.

Secondly and the most important one. This could be called a lame argument but it is still an argument and so I want you to listen to it carefully.

None of the services that you pay for are provided in full. There is a margin that somebody earns and you get roughly about 50% of what you actually paid for.

Going by that logic, if you are getting even 50% of development and infrastructural facilities that you are paying for, wouldn’t that be a better position to be in, rather than not getting anything?

I know I might sound an “Idiot”, but what I said is the truth.

Take for example, the constituency that I belong to.

The representative here is a well-known corrupt. We still have roads which might not be 100% upto the mark. We have other facilities like street lights, transport etc. all of them though not as expected, but still manageable.

This representative might be gobbling up about 70% of all funds being allocated and only delivering on the 30% funds.

Compare him to the representative from the other party who is a 90% corrupt.

What’s the choice I have?

I can go and vote for a “NOTA” and let any one of them win. If Candidate 1 wins, I might get some of the facilities that I am supposed to get and if the other one wins, I might get even poorer facilities.

Would there be any point cribbing, if Candidate 2 wins especially since I decided not to pick anyone?

Election in India today, in most cases is about picking the “least corrupt“.

And though you might feel bad about it, we still need them.

In a constituency where the margin of victory for 68 votes and there were 143 votes in favor of NOTA, a candidate who had delivered better on promises and was 60% corrupt was defeated in favor of another candidate who was opportunistic and was 75% corrupt.

Why?

Because a lot of us vote to our caste and a few of us vote to the betterment of society.

The problem with the few who vote for the betterment of the society is that they –

  1. could swing to either side depending upon promises
  2. could vote for people based on past performances
  3. might just not vote
  4. or, could vote for “NOTA”

But the ones who vote to a caste, will invariably caste their vote without any of the above.

So the only one who decides who comes to power and who doesn’t is “YOU” who are voting for NOTA.

It’s a choice you need to make.

Would you want to vote for NOTA and not get counted as a “Valid Vote” or, would you want to be a part of the change even if that is in baby-steps?

We can definitely make a difference. The Choice is YOURS!

1 thought on “Why NOTA Might Not be the Best Choice You are Making in a Democracy like India?”

  1. Well written and analysed.I agree to the views…I have always chosen the best of the lot.Actually I have not thought about the real effect NOTA can have.This is an eye opener.

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