Bengaluru, (DHNS): The None of the above (NOTA) option will make its entry into the first general elections to Karnataka Assembly though it may not effect any change in the electoral politics, thanks to the first-past-the-poll system. Voters in the state have already exercised NOTA with 2.57 lakh people rejecting the 434 candidates during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Thousands of people have done the same thing during the eight bypolls to the Assembly. In the general elections to Assembly, the number is set to climb higher. The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), in a report, noted that some of the “red alert constituencies” (where more than three candidates face criminal cases) have secured higher NOTA votes. With 56 such segments going to the polls, it remains to be seen how many voters will choose NOTA over candidates facing serious criminal cases.
Since its rollout in September 2013, to 2017, NOTA has secured 1.33 crore votes in all the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections combined. “In byelections in Goa, NCT of Delhi and Andhra Pradesh, a large number of people voted for NOTA, making its vote share the third or fourth highest in the respective constituencies,” the ADR report says. It is worth mentioning that in Nandyal (Andhra Pradesh) Assembly bypolls last year, of the 1.7 lakh electorate only 1,382 voted for the Congress while 1,231 chose NOTA. Seeking to elevate NOTA from its symbolic status, ADR recommends that fresh elections should be conducted in constituencies where NOTA gets a little above 50% of the total votes. “In the fresh elections, only a candidate who gets at least 50%+1 of the votes cast should be declared elected,” it suggests. Maj Gen (retd) Anil Verma, head, the National Election Watch at ADR, said it was unfortunate that people do not take the criminal cases pending against their candidates seriously, which defeats the very idea behind NOTA. “The recommendations made by ADR are not new. Many organisations have sought similar changes after 2014 Lok Sabha elections, where several candidates won though their vote share was less than 20% and parties such as BSP that got 20% total votes didn’t win a single seat. The reforms are needed to make elections matter,” he said.
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