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NOTA means Boycott

Amongst West BENGAL, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry that witnessed state assembly elections in May 2016, West Bengal has recorded the highest number of votes under the NOTA (None of the above option). India’s Election Commission data shows that Bengal recorded 831,845 NOTA votes, or 1.5% of the total votes cast, Tamil Nadu registered 560,533 NOTA votes, or 1.3%, Assam counted 189,066 or 1.1%, and Kerala 107,239 or 0.5%. Puducherry, however topped in percentage terms, counting 13,240 NOTA votes or 1.7%. NOTA had debuted with 2014 parliamentary general elections. In 2014, about 1% of those who voted in Bengal used this option. 1.5% of votes, as in May 2016, is huge. There is more inclination to strike the NOTA button amongst the younger educated generation, as none of the political parties has succeeded in striking a chord with them. The Trinamul Congress vote share in West Bengal shot up by 6.5% to 44.9%. The Left Front vote share was 25.9%, the Congress was 12.3%, and the BJP was 10.2%. Of the 294 assembly seats in Bengal, the TMC bagged 211 seats, the Congress 44 seats, the CPI(M) 26 seats, the BJP 3 seats, and other 10 seats.

NOTA in effect means boycott—boycott of candidates, if not the electoral process. The boycottists of yester years are no longer in favour of boycott because most factions of the naxalite camp, are now too eager to participate in elections. They have not offered any convincing explanation for their reversal of stand on parliamentary elections. Not that the situation has changed radically from what was in the 1970’s. The naxalite uprising was a break with the status quo-ists but the then revolutionary situation was not extra-ordinary necessiating a boycott strategy. These days only the CPI (Maoist) strongly campaigns in favour of boycott but the Maoists’ reach to the middle class voters who in the main utilised NOTA option is so limited that their ‘No to Election’ slogan has little impact on election politics.

It cannot be denied election has created a kind of political consciousness among ordinary people—who have begun to think in terms of right. It is ridiculous to say that this much awareness among voters is nothing and it won’t have any repercussions in future.

The hard fact is that the disgruntled youth who once opted for boycott as a way out to register their voice of dissent against the system, are again look restless. The boycottists may tactfully use NOTA option to expose the futility of this parliamentary system that is rotten to the cone. Jobless youth, educated youth need jobs for a decent life but this jobless growth regime can at worst guarantee more criminalisation of society. NOTA is legal and boycottists can avail this legal opportunity to mobilise public opinion against the rule of the rich.

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 50, Jun 19 - 25, 2016