Congress’s NOTA campaign garners attention

Students lead charge rejecting empty promises through NOTA



May 10, 2024

/ By / New Delhi

Congress’s NOTA campaign garners attention

In 2019, the highest number of NOTA votes were polled in the Jhabua Lok Sabha constituency

Amidst a shifting political landscape, the rise of NOTA campaigns in Indian elections reflects growing dissatisfaction and demands for change among voters.

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In the backdrop of constantly evolving Indian political dynamics, the Congress Party unveils a new campaign slogan in Indore: ‘Loktantra Bachao, NOTA ka button dabao’ (Save democracy, press NOTA). This significant move signals a shift in voter engagement, echoing a rising sentiment of dissatisfaction and a call for alternative political avenues.

The opposition Congress received a jolt after its Lok Sabha poll candidate from Indore, Akshay Kanti Bam, withdrew his nomination on the last date of the withdrawal of nominations on April 29.

Now Congress has initiated this series of initiatives to endorse the NOTA option among voters.

During a press conference, Madhya Pradesh Congress Chief Jitu Patwari urged voters in Indore to press the None of the Above button to teach the BJP a lesson after the Congress’ candidate joined the BJP party. Bam’s decision to withdraw his nomination and align with the BJP occurred five days after a sessions court in Indore instructed the police to add an attempt-to-murder charge against him, stemming from a 17-year-old dispute over a land deal.

Congress leaders allege that Bam’s defection was forced by the BJP, citing influence over the attempt-to-murder charge and threats to file additional cases against him. The Indore Lok Sabha constituency has been under BJP control since 1989. In 2019, the BJP party’s Shankar Lalwani secured victory with a margin of over 0.54 million

The NOTA option, short for ‘None Of The Above,’ enables voters to express dissatisfaction with all candidates in their constituency during an election. It allows individuals to officially reject all contenders, signalling disapproval or lack of confidence in the available choices.

The inclusion of the NOTA option dates back to 2013 when it was integrated into Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) during assembly elections across five states namely Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Delhi, and Madhya Pradesh. This development followed a significant legal precedent set by the Supreme Court in the PUCL versus Union of India case, which emphasised the importance of providing voters with a means to register their disapproval if none of the candidates aligned with their preferences or ideologies.

In the upcoming fifth phase of election, a notable trend is emerging among the younger generation of voters who are increasingly inclined towards utilising the NOTA option. Frustrated with the traditional political landscape and disenchanted by the lack of viable alternatives, many youngsters are opting to abstain from casting their vote for any candidate. For them, NOTA represents not just a mark of dissent but a deliberate choice to withhold support from a system they perceive as flawed or disconnected from their realities.

Alok Richhariya

Alok Richhariya

As the NOTA campaign gains momentum in Indore, voices of dissent resonate among its residents, reflecting a growing sentiment of dissatisfaction with the ruling BJP. Among them is Alok Richhariya, a musician and sound engineer from Indore MP who articulates a poignant stance against the BJP’s ideas and plans. His decision to opt for NOTA is not merely a lack of alternative options but a deliberate stand against ideologies he opposes.

“I do not agree with the BJP’s ideas and many of their plans. So, instead of voting for them, I will choose NOTA. It is important for leaders to understand that many people do not support them. My decision is not about not having other options, but about standing against ideas and plans, I don’t like. By picking NOTA, I am saying I do not support BJP. The number of the people who are not in favour of the ruling party, should be known to the rulers,” Richhariya tells Media India Group.

Gaurav Chuhan

Gaurav Chuhan

The Congress campaign promoting the use of NOTA is making waves not just in Indore but also all over India. People are starting to notice and use NOTA more as a way to show they are not happy with the usual political choices. This campaign is catching on because it gives voters a way to express their dissatisfaction and demand better options.

“NOTA is indeed a good option for expressing rejection, but as someone rightly pointed out, it’s like a toothless tiger because it doesn’t bring about any real change. If there were proper guidelines in place for NOTA, that would be more effective. Authorities should definitely look into this matter,” Gaurav Chuhan from Gaziabad near Delhi tells Media India Group.

Junaid Tantray, a student from Chandigarh University, echoes the sentiments of many disillusioned citizens as he articulates his decision to opt for NOTA in the upcoming elections. His disenchantment with both the ruling and opposition parties stems from a perceived lack of tangible change and meaningful governance.

“I have lost faith in the ruling and opposition parties. They have been in power before and did not do much then, so I don’t see them making a difference now. I do not want to waste my vote on them. If the Aam Aadmi Party was in Kashmir, I would support them, but they are not. That is why I am choosing the NOTA option. It is my way of saying I am not happy with the choices I have. I want better governance and representation, and NOTA is how I am making that clear,” Tantray tells Media India Group.

Rumaisa Sultan

Rumaisa Sultan

Another student from Kashmir University speaks up for many fed-up citizens. She is tired of empty promises from politicians who have not delivered. NOTA is her way of saying enough is enough. She wants leaders who truly care about people’s needs.

“I believe in the power of change, but I am tired of empty promises by the ruling and opposition parties. They have had their chances, and they have let us down. I refuse to settle for more of the same, NOTA is my way of standing up and saying, ‘enough is enough’. I want leaders who truly represent the people and prioritise our needs. NOTA is my way of demanding better, of insisting on a brighter future for all of us,” Rumaisa Sultan tells Media India Group.

Her rejection of empty promises and demand for genuine representation through NOTA reverberates as a call for accountability and change. In her words, NOTA becomes a powerful tool to demand better leadership and a brighter future for all.

Another student, Muneer Shafi, a Political Science scholar, from Jammu University raises pertinent questions about NATO’s efficacy. To him, action holds more weight than mere dissatisfaction expressed through NOTA. His insights provoke reflection on the effectiveness of different forms of political engagement in driving meaningful change within the system.

“I have often pondered the purpose of the NOTA option. While I respect everyone’s right not to vote if they don’t want to, I have struggled to grasp the significance of NOTA specifically. If someone truly desires extraordinary change, why not step forward and contest elections themselves? It seems to me that action speaks louder than abstention. Instead of merely expressing dissatisfaction through NOTA, individuals could actively engage in the political process to bring about the change they envision,” Shafi tells Media India Group.

In the 2019 election, total NOTA votes were 3,40,928, which was 0.9 pc of the total votes polled. NOTA had bagged the fourth highest number of votes after BJP, Congress and BSP in the state (which???). In the 2014 poll, NOTA votes were 0.391 million which was 1.32 pc of the total.

In 2019, the highest number of NOTA votes were polled in the Jhabua Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh, where 35,431 voters made it clear that they did not want any of the candidates to represent them.



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