NOTA was introduced as an option on the ballot paper in 2013 while a dedicated symbol on the EVM came in 2015. However, NOTA vote share has been on a continuous decline over the years. In the recently concluded assembly elections to five states, NOTA polled 0.7% of the vote, the lowest in a year since its introduction in 2013.
The results for the recently held Assembly General Elections in 5 States – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa & Manipur were declared on 10 March 2022. The elections were conducted during February & March 2022. The incumbent parties/alliances in four of the states managed to retain power, while in Punjab, the AAP stormed to power winning more than 80% of the seats.
The previous assembly general elections for all these states were conducted in 2017. Hence, this is the second time that assembly elections were held in these states after NOTA (None of the Above) option was introduced in 2013 on the ballot paper and a dedicated symbol on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) was put in place in 2015.
As noted in many of our earlier stories, NOTA as a preferred choice is finding favour with fewer voters with every passing year. The vote share for NOTA has consistently declined over the years, possibly because of the reason that votes for NOTA would not lead to any change in the results.
NOTA vote share crossed the 2% mark only in the elections held in the year 2015. Since then, there has been a consistent decline in the vote share for NOTA. NOTA polled just about 0.7% of the votes in the recently concluded assembly general elections to the five states in 2022. This is the lowest in any year since the introduction of NOTA in 2013.
In this story, we analyse the trends in NOTA vote share in 2017 & 2022 across these five States.
Details of the performance of NOTA across the elections can be viewed on Factly’s comprehensive Dashboard on NOTA – NOTA and Numbers.
Share of NOTA in 2022 fell in 3 out of 5 States compared to the 2017 assembly elections
Among the five states for which Assembly elections were concluded recently, there is a slight increase in the share of votes polled for NOTA in Punjab & Manipur compared to the 2017 elections in these states.
- In Punjab, out of the 1.55 crore votes polled in the 2022 Assembly elections, 0.71% i.e., 1.1 lakh votes were for NOTA. In the previous 2017 elections, 1.08 lakh votes were polled for NOTA, which was 0.69% of the total votes polled.
- In Manipur, 10.34 thousand votes were polled for NOTA in 2022 out of 18.57 lakh total votes i.e., around 0.56%. In 2017, the share of NOTA was 0.55% with around 9.06 thousand votes polled for NOTA.
- There is a steep fall in the share of votes for NOTA in Uttar Pradesh. In 2017, the share of NOTA was 0.87% with 7.57 lakh votes. In 2022, even though the total number of votes polled increased to 9.21 crores, the number of votes for NOTA fell to 6.37 lakh votes i.e., 0.69%.
- In Uttarakhand, the share of votes polled for NOTA fell from 0.98% in 2017 to 0.87% in 2022. The votes polled for NOTA reduced to 46.84 thousand in 2022, compared to 50.4 thousand votes in 2017, despite an increase in the total number of votes polled.
- In the case of Goa, the share of NOTA fell from 1.19% in 2017 to 1.12% in 2022.
NOTA share did not cross 3% in any of the seats across five states
In 2017, there was one constituency in UP where NOTA polled more than 3% of the votes. This was the ST-reserved seat of Duddhi, where NOTA polled 4.3%. In 2022, though the seat still has the highest share of NOTA share in the state, it fell to 2.3%.
- In Uttar Pradesh, out of the 403 constituencies for which the results were declared, NOTA polled less than 1% of the votes in 343 constituencies in 2022, compared to 276 in 2017. In 2022, NOTA vote share is between 1-3% in 60 of the 403 constituencies while in 2017, this number was 126 constituencies.
- In Punjab, which has reported a slight increase in the share of votes for NOTA, the number of constituencies with NOTA votes between 1-3% increased from 7 in 2017 to 9 in 2022. The highest NOTA share was 1.18% in the non-reserved seat of Khem Karan.
- In Uttarakhand, the number of constituencies with less than 1% NOTA votes increased from 33 in 2017 to 39 in 2022. The number of constituencies with 1-3% votes for NOTA fell from 37 in 2017 to 31 in 2022. The highest vote share of NOTA was 2% in the Someshwar constituency while in 2017, there was one constituency that had close to 3% of the votes for NOTA.
- Goa also reported a shift of seats from those which polled 1-3 % for NOTA to less than 1% for NOTA. In 2017, 25 constituencies had 1-3 % votes for NOTA, which decreased to 22 in 2022.
- In Manipur, which reported an increase in the share of votes for NOTA, there is an increase in the number of constituencies with 1-3% for NOTA votes from 9 in 2017 to 10 in 2022. There were two seats with more than a 2% share for NOTA in 2022, while the highest in 2017 was 1.7%.
Strangely, there was not a single assembly constituency across the five states where NOTA polled more than 3% of the votes.
SC & ST reserved seats continue to poll more votes for NOTA
One of the consistent trends in NOTA vote share across various State Assembly & Lok Sabha general elections since 2013 is that the SC & ST reserved seats have a higher share of NOTA votes compared to the General category seats.
- In UP, the decline in the NOTA vote share in 2022 is across all the categories. Nevertheless, the reserved category seats still polled a comparatively higher share of NOTA votes. In 2022, the NOTA share in General seats fell to 0.66% from 0.81% in 2017. In the case of SC reserved seats, it fell from 1.06% in 2017 to 0.79% in 2022 while in the case of the two ST seats in the state, it fell from 3.57% in 2017 to 2.13% in 2022.
- Punjab has no ST reserved seats. The increase in the NOTA share of the state in 2022 is contributed by the increase in the SC reserved seats. In the 34 SC reserved constituencies, the share of NOTA in 2022 was 0.79% compared to 0.7% in 2017.
- In the case of Uttarakhand, the lone ST reserved seat has seen an increase in the share of NOTA from 0.77% in 2017 to 1.42% in 2022. Comparatively, the share of NOTA among the General as well as the SC reserved seats was reduced. The NOTA vote share in the SC reserved seats is still higher than the share in general category seats.
- The share of NOTA across both General as well as SC reserved seats fell in Goa during the 2022 assembly elections. The NOTA share in the sole SC seat in the state fell from 1.69% in 2017 to 1.24% in 2022. This is comparatively higher than the average of all the General seats. The seat with the highest NOTA share in 2022 is a general category with 2.23%.
- This trend of reserved seats having a higher NOTA share is not seen in the case of Manipur as the state has a sizeable ST population of around 40%. The ST reserved seats have a lower NOTA share in the state compared to general category seats. In 2022, ST reserved seats polled 0.21% for NOTA while in the case of General seats, it is 0.76%.
In 22 Seats of UP, NOTA polled more votes than the victory margin
While the overall share of votes polled for NOTA has reduced in 2022 compared to 2017, NOTA was crucial in 34 constituencies across the five states where there was a close context. In these 34 constituencies, NOTA polled more than the victory margin. In 2017, there were only 26 such constituencies.
This is more prominent in the case of Uttar Pradesh. In 22 constituencies, NOTA polled more votes than victory margin in the 2022 elections while there were 14 such constituencies in 2017. Goa has five such constituencies in 2022 while 3 such constituencies were in Uttarakhand and 2 constituencies each in Punjab & Manipur.
Among these seats, Jirbam in Manipur polled 2.17% for NOTA i.e., 579 votes, while the victory margin was 416 votes. In Uttarakhand’s Dwarahat, where there was a very close contest with a victory margin of 182 votes, NOTA polled 791 votes i.e., 1.6% of the total votes.
The constituencies of Shrawasti & Manikpur in UP polled 1.26% and 1.6% NOTA votes. The votes for NOTA were comparatively higher than the victory margin. In the case of Manikpur, NOTA received 3,325 votes, while the victory margin was 1048 votes. Though the overall interest in NOTA is declining as a preferred choice for voters, these votes are proving to be crucial in certain constituencies.