Ferozepur, March 14, 2017: During Punjab Assembly elections, in as many as ten constituencies, the thin margin contests have helped Congress as winners edged out their rivals by margin as low as 265 in Fazilka and 645 votes in Bhucho Mandi where the NOTA voters are higher than the winning votes.
NOTA – None Of The Above – button provision in the Electronic Voting Machines – during the Punjab Assembly Elections 2017 could have reversed the result in favour of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Surjit Kumar Jyani who lost with a thin margin of 265 votes from Davinder Singh Ghubaya - a young first timer Congress candidate and son of Sher Singh Ghubaya, SAD MP, who had rebelled on being ignored by the party - when 669 NOTA votes were polled in Fazilka constituency.
Others who won by thin margin are Lakhbir Singh Lodhinagal of SAD from Batala by 485 votes and the loser is Ashwani Sekhri of Congress and NOTA votes are 713.
In Bhucho Mandi, Pritam Singh Kotbhai of Congress won by 645 votes and the loser is Jagsir Singh of AAP when NOTA votes are 711.
Though the winning margin in Batala, Dera Baba Nanak, Ludhiana East, Dirba, Garshanker, Moga, Banga and Fatehgarh Churian was also very thin but here the NOTA votes polled were not higher than that.
KNOW ABOUT NOTA :
The objective with which NOTA was introduced was to enable the electorate, who do not wish to vote for any of the candidates, to exercise their right without violation of the secrecy of their decision. But the Election Commission did not work on the issue that with low margin winner when number of NOTA votes polled are higher could change the results, if polled in favour of the candidates who has lost the election with a narrow margin.
The Election Commission in the past has said that while NOTA votes are counted, they are considered invalid votes. Hence, even if 98 of 100 voters in a particular constituency chose NOTA and one candidate gets 2 votes, he will be declared a winner. India follows the first past the post system in elections wherein whichever candidates gets one vote more than the second candidate wins in the election in a particular location. Therefore, political experts are of the view that NOTA is essentially a wastage of a vote since it makes no impact in the electoral outcome in any election, be it assembly elections or the Lok Sabha elections.
In September 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered that all Indian voters should be given an option to choose ‘None of the Above’ popularly known as NOTA if they are do not wish to vote for any of the candidates standing in for elections in that particular location. While in the initial stages, NOTA failed to make an impact, assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Goa in 2017 have brought NOTA votes to the forefront.
According to latest data from the Election Commission of India, about 4.3 lakh voters across the country pressed ‘NOTA’ on the electronic voting machines. Of this, Uttar Pradesh with 403 constituencies has the largest share of NOTA votes at over 3.2 lakh. Punjab had about 65,000 NOTA votes and Uttarakhand at 30,000 NOTA votes.
The Election Commission also clarified that even though votes cast as NOTA are counted, they are considered as invalid votes so they will not change the outcome of the election process. They are not taken into account for calculating the total valid votes and will not be considered for determining the forfeiture of security deposit.
A young voter Rajan from Fazilka, who did not disclose to whom he cast his vote but said, NOTA button is very dangerous when NOTA votes polled are higher than the winning thin margin. The Election Commission must review its usage in the next elections.