The popular perception is that the ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option – a measure of rejection of all candidates – did not make a difference in the recent assembly elections, being as low as 0.6% in Delhi. But the NOTA choice came third in terms of votes polled in as many as 148 of the 520 constituencies in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, suggesting widespread discontent with governance deep inside the country. Of these 148 constituencies, 63 are in MP, 51 in Rajasthan and 34 in Chhattisgarh. Most of these constituencies fall in Maoist-affected, tribal or rural areas. Take Bijapur, in Naxal-affected southern Chhattisgarh, where over 10.1% of voters chose the NOTA option.
All the five states that went to polls over the past month, and whose results will be announced on Sunday, have seen an increase in voter turnout. While Rajasthan has recorded the highest jump of 9%, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have posted an increase of 4.5% and 3.5% respectively. Political parties have attributed this higher turnout variously to anti-incumbency or enthusiasm for their candidates and policies, but other factors have also been at work. The first of these is the sterling work done by the Election Commission to ensure a higher voter turnout. The second is the wider recognition among voters and candidates that these polls are more closely fought than previous ones — and, therefore, every vote could indeed count.