People Want a NOTA with ‘Biting’ Teeth - The New Indian Express

People Want a NOTA with ‘Biting’ Teeth

Published: 11th April 2014 10:15 AM

Last Updated: 11th April 2014 10:33 AM

With less than a month to go for the general election in Andhra Pradesh, many voters seem to be unaware that for the first time, they will have the opportunity to reject all candidates in the fray by pressing the None of the Above (NOTA) button. A number of voters contacted by Express are enthusiastic about the elections, but didn’t know that the last button on the electronic voting machine(EVM) is NOTA.

The Supreme Court had in September last year ordered that the NOTA option be offered to Indian voters. The option was introduced in five state Assembly elections in November 2013.

Durga Rao (28), a taxi driver, said, “I do not know about NOTA, and now that I know, I’m sure I will use it.”

A first time voter, Anuraag Lakkaraju, also said he was not aware of such an option.

One reason for the low awareness of NOTA is the absence of adequate awareness campaign by the Election Commission. The Election Commission has said election authorities must inform voters about NOTA, but at the same time said information about NOTA should be printed in smaller size than any other election related information on publicity material.

The People’s Union of Civil Liberties, which filed the petition which led to the Supreme Court’s NOTA order last year, has no awareness campaign run through its website.

When contacted, PUCL national secretary Mahipal Singh said no awareness campaign on NOTA has been undertaken so far. “We do have a publicity campaign within the organization, but we have no plans for any external publicity for NOTA,” he said. Also, absence of any Facebook page has contributed to the lack of awareness, especially among youth.

Political parties are naturally silent about the option. Khaja Moinudeen (65), who works at Hyderabad gymkhana, said he was not surprised that political parties are not publicising it, which shows that they fear its use by voters.

Meanwhile, a few young voters who know about NOTA said they are keen to show their disapproval of the political situation by pressing the last button. Aishwarya Reddy (20), a management student, says, “Now that NOTA is available, people can finally express their anger at the political system, in a democratic manner. I am sure a lot of young voters like me will press the button in the coming elections.”

Many voters that Express spoke to think that NOTA will have a large impact in the election. Mrs. P Keerthi (45), a housewife, said, “I think at least 50 percent of voters will opt for NOTA in the Lok Sabha polls. The quality of candidates is extremely poor,” she says.

There was dissatisfaction that NOTA is not a weapon that voters will like to have as it will not alter result of polls. It is not a right to reject.

A visitor at Lamakaan cultural centre, Venkateshwar Reddy (53) said, “The NOTA button is meaningless if it isn’t taken into account. If it could really change an election, many more people would take the trouble to use it.

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