The Economic Times

Former Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat on Sunday described 'NOTA' as having a "symbolic" impact and said if it gets more than 50 per cent votes in a seat, only then a thought could be given to make it legally effective on poll results. Rawat, a former IAS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, also told PTI that if one out of 99 out of 100 votes go in favour of None of the Above (NOTA) option and a candidate gets one vote, even then he/she will emerge victorious.

The Congress received a jolt in Madhya Pradesh's Indore Lok Sabha seat after its candidate Akshay Kanti Bam withdrew his nomination on April 29, the last date for the withdrawal of nominations.

Bam later joined the BJP, prompting the Congress to appeal to the people to press the NOTA option on EVMs during polling in Indore on May 13 to teach the "saffron party a lesson".

The Congress is out of the electoral race for the first time in the 72-year history of the Indore Lok Sabha seat.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Indore recorded 69 per cent turnout with 5,045 voters opting for NOTA.

Rawat said, "In the present situation, NOTA has only symbolic significance and it cannot have an impact on the election result of any seat."

"In an election, if 99 votes out of 100 go to NOTA and a candidate gets only one vote, still the candidate, and not NOTA, will be declared the winner," he said.

The former CEC said if more than 50 per cent of the voters in a seat favour NOTA, only then there is a point in thinking of making this voting option legally effective on the election results.

"More than 50 per cent electors will have to once opt for NOTA in a seat to show the political community that they do not consider candidates with criminal background or other undeserving ones worthy of their votes. Only after this, pressure on Parliament and the Election Commission will increase and they will have to think about changing laws to make NOTA effective on the election results," he said.

The 'NOTA' button was introduced on the electronic voting machines in September 2013 following the Supreme Court's decision.

It was added to the voting options to discourage parties from fielding tainted candidates.

Anil Verma, head of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an electoral reform advocacy group, said that in the 2014 and 2019 parliamentary elections, NOTA got an average of less than two per cent votes.

"To take the NOTA option to the next level, it should be made legally powerful. We believe that if NOTA gets more votes than polled by the candidates in any seat, then the election should be cancelled and a fresh poll should be conducted with new candidates," he said.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 'NOTA' got the maximum votes in Gopalganj seat of Bihar where 51,660 electors favoured this option and it received around five per cent of the total votes.

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