Data from the Election Commission’s website at 7pm on Sunday showed around 2.5% of Bihar’s electorate had voted for Nota -- None of the above -- effectively rejecting both the grand alliance and the NDA.
Nota has not been historically a popular choice with the voters but, in terms of vote share, it outdid at least four fancied political formations these elections .
HAM(S): Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi broke away from the Janata Dal(United) months before the polls and formed his Hindustani Awam Morcha(Secular), vowing to take away the sizeable Mahadalit vote away from the grand alliance. But the gamble doesn’t seem to have worked, with Manjhi polling around 2.3% of the votes. Dalits seem to have backed the grand alliance instead of the Musahar leader, who picked up just three seats.
Samajwadi Party: Mulayam Singh Yadav walked out of the Janata Parivar in a huff during seat-sharing negotiations, saying the party was being given a raw deal. It tried to cobble together a third-front to counter both major coalitions. But counting day showed the party -- billed as a spoiler due to its perceived ability to take away a chunk of the Yadav vote -– polled just 1.1% of the vote and the Yadavs were firmly with the grand alliance.
AIMIM: Asaduddin Owaisi’s Hyderabad-based party tried to expand its wings in Bihar and led a high-visibility campaign, asking Muslim voters to reject both the NDA and the grand alliance, and vote for him. The media gave a lot of space to the new entrant that was expected to split the Muslim vote and especially hurt the grand alliance, but things don’t seem to have worked out on the ground with just 0.4% of the vote.
Left parties: Once a stronghold of the Left parties, Bihar seems to have rejected both the CPI(M) and the CPI, who together polled less than 2% of the votes and didn’t win a single seat between them. In fact, their smaller cousin CPI(ML), which has a history of ground-level activism in the state, did much better and picked up two seats. The Left is receding nationally and Bihar provided no solace, proving that even when people are rejecting the BJP, they don’t look at the CPI-CPI(M) as a viable alternative.
The Nota option was first used in electronic voting machines in assembly elections held in five states in 2013 where more than 1.5 million people exercised the option. The figure, however, was lower than 1.5% of the total voters.
Less than 0.5% of the voters rejected all candidates in the Jharkhand poll held in 2014 and in elections in the national capital held earlier this year. In Maharashtra last year, the figure hovered around 1%.
The Supreme Court upheld the provision, saying negative voting would even encourage people who are not satisfied with any of the candidates to turn up to express their opinion and reject all contestants.