The percentage of voters punching in None of the Above or NOTA options in recently-concluded Maharashtra assembly elections has seen a rise compared to 2014 polls. In the October 24 verdict, the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena managed to retain power but ceded considerable ground; the saffron allies collectively lost 23 seats to their rivals - NCP and Congress.
The analysis shows 7,42,134 voters opted for NOTA as against 4,60,741 votes who had chosen this option in 2014 polls. Collectively, the NOTA percentage stood at 1.35 per cent of the total votes cast as against 0.91% of the previous assembly polls. The NOTA option, which indicates voters' disenchantment with candidates in the fray, secured second place in two constituencies which are the pocket borough of political heavyweights in the state, which comprises 288 Assembly seats.
The NOTA option, however, does not impact the results of the elections. In Latur Rural Assembly segment in Marathwada region, Congress candidate Dhiraj Deshmukh secured 1,35,006 votes (67.64 per cent) whereas NOTA clinched 27,500 votes (13.78 per cent) to secure the second position. Dhiraj is the son of the late chief minister and Congress stalwart Vilasrao Deshmukh who hailed from Latur district.
In the Palus-Kadegaon Assembly constituency in Sangli district in western Maharashtra, Congress nominee Vishwajeet Kadam emerged a winner with 1,71,497 votes, while NOTA came in second with 20,631 votes. Vishwajeet is the son of Congress stalwart late Patangrao Kadam who had nurtured Palus-Kaedgaon constituency during his long political career.
Notably, Sanjay Vibhute of the Shiv Sena was relegated to the third position in the seat with 8,976 votes. In high-profile Nagpur South West constituency from where Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis got re-elected by defeating his Congress opponent, 3064 electors or 1.59 per cent of the total votes cast pressed NOTA button. Fadnavis secured victory garnering 1,09,237 votes.
In another remarkable contest in Worli in Mumbai, from where Shiv Sena's Aaditya Thackeray made his electoral debut, 6305 voters (4.88 per cent of the total votes cast) opted for NOTA. Thackeray won by polling 89,248 votes. The NOTA option was first introduced in Maharashtra in the 2014 elections, following a Supreme Court verdict a year earlier. The apex court had then observed that negative voting will lead to a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates. On October 24, the BJP won 105 seats and the Sena 56 while the NCP and the Congress bagged 54 and 44 seats, respectively.