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Data: NOTA’s vote share falls in 4 of the 5 States that went to polls recently

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The trend of NOTA polling fewer votes in every subsequent election has been highlighted by us multiple times before. This trend has continued with NOTA’s vote share declining in 4 of the 5 states that went to the polls recently. Here is a deep dive. 

The results of the recently held ‘Assembly General Elections’ for 4 States (Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu & West Bengal) & 1 Union Territory (Puducherry) were declared on 02 May 2021. The elections were conducted during the month of March and April 2021. Of these, the incumbent parties/alliances managed to retain power in three states while in Tamil Nadu & Puducherry, there was a shift in power. 

The previous assembly elections for all these states were conducted in 2016. Therefore, these are the second set of assembly general elections in these states after NOTA (None Of The Above) was introduced (2013) and a dedicated symbol for NOTA was put in place (2015) on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). 

In this story, we analyse the trends of votes polled for NOTA in 2016 & 2021 across these 5 States (including Puducherry). 

Share of votes polled for NOTA declines in 2021 with the exception of Assam 

A common trend observed in both the assembly general elections in other states and the Lok Sabha general elections is the decline in the share of votes polled for NOTA, compared to earlier.  The same trend continued for most of the five states that went for polls in the current year, Assam being an exception. 

  • In Assam, around 1.92 crores of votes were polled in 126 assembly constituencies. Of these NOTA polled 2.19 lakh votes i.e., 1.14%. This is slightly more than NOTA’s vote share in 2016 when it was 1.11%. 
  • Kerala, which already had a low vote share for NOTA in 2016 with 0.53%, has reported a further decrease in the vote share for NOTA. In 2021, NOTA polled just 0.47% of the total vote. Despite an increase in the total number of votes polled from 2.02 crores to 2.08 crores, the number of votes for NOTA fell from around 1.07 lakhs to nearly 97.6 thousand.
  • Of all the States/UT that went to the polls in 2016, Puducherry had a higher vote share for NOTA with 1.65% in 2016. It continues to have a higher share, although it is reduced to 1.29% in 2021. Despite an increase in the number of total votes polled, there is a fall in the number of votes for NOTA from 13.2 thousand in 2016 to 10.8 thousand in 2021.

Tamil Nadu registered a remarkable fall in the vote share of NOTA. In 2016, 5.65 lakh votes were polled for NOTA i.e., 1.3% of the total votes polled. In 2021, the NOTA vote share fell to 0.75% i.e., only 3.45 lakh votes were polled to NOTA out of 4.62 crore total votes polled.

  • In West Bengal, around 5.99 crore votes were polled across 292 Assembly seats in 2021. Of these NOTA polled 6.46 lakh votes, which is around 1.08% of the total votes. It is lower than the 1.51% of the votes polled for NOTA in 2016. As observed in the case of other states, the number of votes polled for NOTA reduced in West Bengal despite an increase in the total number of votes polled. 

NOTA vote share did not cross 3% in any of the constituencies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu & West Bengal 

During the 2016 Assembly elections, in none of the seats in Kerala, NOTA polled more than 3% votes. The highest vote share for NOTA in a constituency was 1.2% polled in the Kadhuthuruthy constituency. In fact, only in 2 seats, NOTA polled more than 1%, with NOTA polling less than 1% in the rest of the 138 seats. The trend continued even in 2021. NOTA did not poll more than 3% votes in any of the constituencies in Kerala. Only in Thalassery, NOTA polled 1.74%, and in the rest of the 139 seats, NOTA polled less than 1% votes. 


In the case of Tamil Nadu, NOTA polled between 1-3% in 157 of the 234 constituencies in 2016. In 2021, the trend is reversed with NOTA polling less than 1% in 200 of the 234 seats. In none of the seats either in 2016 or 2021, NOTA polled more than 3% of the vote share. The highest in 2016 was Krishnarayapuram with a 2.8% vote share for NOTA. In the 2021 assembly elections, NOTA did not poll more than 2% of the votes in any of the seats whereas this number was 32 in 2016. In 2021, the highest vote share for NOTA is in Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni with 1.5%.

In West Bengal, NOTA polled more than 3% votes in 5 constituencies in 2016 whereas this did not happen in any of the constituencies in 2021. The highest NOTA vote share during the 2021 elections was in Nagrakata with 2.85% whereas, in 2016, NOTA polled 4.5% in the Kurseong constituency, the highest in that year. In 2021, the NOTA vote share in Kurseong is 1.38%. 

In both Assam & Puducherry, NOTA polled more than 3% of votes in one constituency each. 

In Assam, NOTA polled 3.11% in the ST-reserved seat of Udalguri in 2021. 

ST Reserved seats have higher share of NOTA votes across the States 

Another trend that is observed across the board in elections to the state assemblies & the Lok Sabha is that NOTA polls a higher vote share in SC & ST reserved seats compared to General category seats. The trend prevailed, especially for ST reserved seats in these 5 states for which the elections were held recently.

  • In Assam, Puducherry & West Bengal, the NOTA vote share in SC reserved seats was less than its vote share in General seats. 
  • In continuation of the overall trend, the share of NOTA votes in 2021 is lesser than that of 2016, across all the categories of seats. (with the exception of General & SC-reserved seats in Assam). 
  • Share of NOTA votes in SC reserved seats fell by a larger margin in Puducherry, Tamil Nadu & West Bengal. 
  • Even in ST reserved seats, the vote share of NOTA fell in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. 

Despite fall NOTA vote share, these votes were key in multiple closer contests 

The overall trend across the states is that the NOTA vote share fell in the 2021 assembly elections compare to that of 2016.  However, data indicates that the votes polled for NOTA were crucial in a few of the closer contests. In the elections for these 5 Assemblies, NOTA polled more votes than the victory margin in 37 constituencies.  Of these 13 are in Tamil Nadu and 14 in West Bengal. 

In the Barjora constituency of West Bengal, the victory margin was 3269 votes whereas NOTA polled 4903 votes or 2.23% of the total votes. In another West Bengal constituency – Ranibandh, which is ST reserved, NOTA polled 4226 or 2% of the votes which is more than the victory margin.  In Dinhata of West Bengal, the victory margin was only 57 votes and NOTA polled 1537 votes (0.63%). In Perinthalmanna of Kerala, the winner won by a margin of 38 votes whereas NOTA polled 867 (0.52%) votes.  Hence, irrespective of the vote share for NOTA, it is proving to be costly for the losing candidates in certain close contests.

The debate on the efficacy of NOTA in its present form will only get stronger especially because of its falling vote share with every passing year. 

Featured Image: NOTA’s vote share

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