The overall NOTA vote share in the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections decreased to 1.68% compared to 2.46% in 2015. This decrease in the NOTA vote share is consistent with the overall trend of declining preference for NOTA. However, NOTA polled more votes than the margin of victory in 30 of the 243 constituencies.
The Bihar Assembly elections held in 2015 were the first elections conducted after Election Commission of India (ECI) introduced a dedicated NOTA symbol. In that election, NOTA received a significant 2.5% of the total votes polled in the election. This has been attributed to the introduction of a dedicated symbol, which makes it easier for the electorate to identify choose the option. Factly had earlier analyzed the NOTA vote share in Bihar Assembly elections -2015 and the various numbers pertaining to NOTA.
Over the ensuing five year period, a general trend observed across the various elections is that the popularity of NOTA is declining and its vote share in general has gone down.
With the recently concluded Assembly elections, Bihar is the now the first state to have had two assembly elections with the dedicated NOTA symbol on the EVM. Here is a look at the trends for NOTA in these elections.
NOTA vote share fell in 2020 Bihar Assembly elections
In continuation of the trend observed across the country, there is a decline in the share of votes polled for NOTA even in the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections. As indicated earlier, NOTA received about 2.5% of the total votes in 2015 Bihar Assembly elections. In comparison, NOTA received only 1.68% of the total votes polled in the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections.
The overall fall in the NOTA vote share is also evident from the fall in the NOTA vote share across the constituencies. Out of the total 243 assembly constituencies in Bihar, NOTA polled more than 5% of the votes in 14 constituencies in the 2015 assembly elections. However, in 2020, the highest vote share for NOTA is 4.38% in Bhorey constituency, with. In other words, compared to 14 constituencies in 2015 that polled more than 5% for NOTA, there is none in 2020.
A significant drop is also observed in the number of constituencies receiving a higher share of NOTA votes. While 24 constituencies in 2015 had NOTA share between 4-5%, this number is down to just 3 in 2020. Similarly, 17 constituencies in 2020 had a NOTA vote share between 3-4 % while it was 47 in 2015.
The fall in preference to NOTA is evident from the fact that in nearly 1/3rd (i.e. 29% or 70) of the constituencies, the NOTA vote share was less than 1% in 2020 with 70 while it was just 33 constituencies in 2015.
In 2020, 30 constituencies in Bihar have polled more votes for NOTA than the victory margin
During Bihar Assembly elections in 2015, there were 21 constituencies where the number of votes for NOTA was more than the victory margin. However, despite the fall in NOTA vote share in the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections, the number of constituencies in which NOTA polled more votes than the victory margin has increased to 30. However, this does not necessarily mean a higher propensity towards NOTA in these constituencies.
In 2015, NOTA polled between 4-5% in 5 of these 21 assembly and NOTA polled between 3-4% in another 5 constituencies. In contrast, in only one of these 30 constituencies in the 2020 assembly elections, NOTA polled more than 4%. This is in the SC reserved Bhorey constituency, where the JD(U) candidate won by a mere 462 votes defeating the CPI (ML)-Liberation candidate. NOTA polled 8010 votes i.e. 4.38% of the total vote share.
In 7 of the 38 SC reserved constituencies, NOTA polled more votes than the victory margin in 2020 while it happened in only 2 such constituencies in 2015.
In 15 constituencies, NOTA polled less than 2% of the votes but higher than the victory margin. All these trends point towards a more closely contested elections in 2020 compared to 2015. While the preference for NOTA has come down, it does seem to have played a part in the close contests, although we do not know about the alternate preference of these NOTA voters.
NOTA vote share is once again higher in Reserved seats than General Seats
Out of 243 constituencies in the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections, 38 are SC reserved and 2 are ST reserved. The share of NOTA in SC reserved seats in 2020 elections was 2.11%, higher than 1.58% in General Category seats. The NOTA vote share in the two ST reserved seats is 2.62%.
However, when compared to 2015 Assembly elections, there is a fall in the share of NOTA votes both in SC reserved seats as well as General category seats. NOTA vote share in 2015 was 2.92% in SC reserved and 2.38% in General category seats. The two ST reserved seats had a lesser NOTA share in 2015 earlier with 2.11%.
When we compare the NOTA vote share in the 2020 assembly elections with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the trends in Bihar show a decline across the categories. There is a major decline in SC reserved constituencies where NOTA polled 2.11% in the 2020 Assembly elections compared to 3.37% in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
However, when the 2019 numbers are compared with the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, there is an increase in the NOTA share especially in the SC reserved constituencies. This could be due to the inclusion of dedicated NOTA symbol for 2019 Lok Sabha elections, which wasn’t the case in 2014.
While preference for NOTA is decreasing, it has an influence on closer contests
The decline in the NOTA vote share in the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections conform to the trends observed across elections in different states. This is clearly evident when the data for 2015 & 2020 assembly elections are compared.
These election results also conform to another trend that has been observed since 2013 i.e. the share of NOTA votes in reserved constituencies is higher than that of General Category seats.
The declining share of NOTA across the constituencies with more than a quarter of the seats polling less than 1% votes for NOTA in 2020 Bihar Assembly elections, points to a clear & decreasing preference for NOTA among the voters.
However, as highlighted earlier in this story, NOTA does seem to have played a key role in few of the closely contested constituencies in these Assembly elections.