div class="Normal">BHOPAL: With more than 6.4 lakh votes which was 1.9% of the total votes polled, NOTA was technically the fourth largest party in the state after BJP, Congress and BSP. Moreover in 21constituencies, NOTA votes were more than the winning margin. Candidates in these 21 constituencies included five ministers, three of whom lost the polls.

In the upcoming elections with the rise of anti-reservation parties and groups like SAPAKS and JAYS, NOTA votes are likely to increase. The

highest number of NOTA votes were polled in tribal areas of the state. The top ten constituencies where voters opted for NOTA included Pansemal (9288), Junnardeo (8696), Amarwada (8232), Barwani (7430), Shahpura (7214), Jobat (5689), Pandhana (5349), Chhindwara (5049), and Sendhawa (4984).

Interestingly, in at least 10 seats of the state where NOTA was more than the winning margin, NOTA votes proved costly for the ruling party as Congress candidates managed to win, though with wafer thin margins.

It is a common belief that NOTA votes are likely to see an increase during this assembly elections as initially SAPAKS, an anti-reservation organisation, had asked people to press the NOTA button.

President of SAPAKS Hiralal Trivedi said, “We promoted NOTA till August as there was no option for the voters. Now as SAPAKS has jumped into electoral politics, we have provided our voters with the option. Thus, all NOTA votes would be grabbed by SAPAKS”.

Activists working for electoral reforms feel that more needs to be done and inclusion of NOTA in voting option is just the beginning. “Inclusion of NOTA is first step towards electoral reforms, but a lot still needs to be done. There should be some rule that if in any constituency a certain number of people opt for NOTA then re-poll should be done and those candidates who had contested should not be allowed in the repoll,” Rolly Shivhare, coordinator of Association For Democratic Reforms (ADR) said.

“Though NOTA has become like a formidable candidate, but the positive aspect of NOTA is that even those people who were reluctant to vote due to unavailability of appropriate candidate are at least stepping out and exercising their voting rights”, she added.

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