The constituency of Latur (Rural) saw 27,500 voters choosing the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option, the highest in the Maharashtra Assembly elections. NOTA polled the second highest number of votes — accounting for 13.78 per cent of the total votes counted in the seat.
In the constituency, Congress candidate Dhiraj Deshmukh, son of former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, got 1,35,006 votes (67%). After Deshmukh and NOTA, Shiv Sena’s Sachin Deshmukh and VBA’s Baliram Done polled 13,524 and 12,966 votes, respectively.
When asked about the high NOTA votes, Sachin said he was still shocked by the verdict. An aide said they would decide whether they want to approach the EC.
District election authorities, however, said they were not surprised by the high number of NOTA votes. An official said that a BJP candidate was expected to be given a ticket for the Latur seat, but eventually a Sena candidate was chosen due to the seat-sharing arrangement between the two alliance partners. Following this, there were protests by BJP workers in the district. Pamphlets were also found urging voters to choose NOTA.
“The pamphlets also shared on social media claimed that if NOTA receives the maximum votes, there will be re-election. When a clarification was sought by the press before the elections regarding NOTA, we had stated the rules regarding it,” said Latur district election officer and collector G Srikant.
As per rules, even if NOTA is chosen more than any other candidate, the candidate who gets the maximum votes after NOTA — even if it is a single vote — will be declared a winner, the district authorities had clarified.
Done, the candidate who stood fourth, alleged that the rumours about NOTA were politically motivated to discourage voters from choosing him. So far, neither the Sena candidate nor the VBA or any other candidates have filed complaints on the alleged rumour.
Apart from Latur, Palus Kadegaon, which is part of Sangli Lok Sabha constituency, also saw a high number of NOTA votes — 20,631 or 9.9 per cent of the electorate. The winning candidate, Patangrao Kadam of the Congress, secured 83.04 per cent of the votes, while NOTA was chosen more than any candidate apart from Kadam.
In Mumbai’s Jogeshwari East constituency, 12,031 voters or over 8% chose the NOTA option, the highest in the city. The constituency comprises areas including Aarey Colony, where 2,185 trees were hacked for a Mumbai Metro car shed earlier this month. While many residents protested the tree-cutting, none of the groups, including the 7,000 adivasis living in the 27 tribal padas part of the constituency had, however, declared that they would be choosing NOTA as a protest vote. Shiv Sena’s Ravindra Waikar, the incumbent MLA, won with a margin of 58,787 votes.
In 2014, when NOTA was used in the state for the first time in Assembly polls, the maximum NOTA votes recorded in the city were in Chandivali-4653, with Jogeshwari East recording 2,038 NOTA votes.