A week from now as Mumbai goes to vote, the people in the city, in a first, will have the option to reject/disapprove of all the contesting candidates by opting for NOTA (None Of The Above). While the option will not have any direct impact on the outcome of the poll, it is already making a buzz in the city.
Several group housing societies across Mumbai have already announced that they would vote 'NOTA' as a protest against candidates of leading political parties. Circulars have been put up on society noticeboards asking voters to select NOTA.
There is another set of activists, who, though they do not claim any affinity for NOTA, are holding workshops to educate voters about it.
On Friday, activist Syed Musharaff of Jago Janta Jago is holding a rally from Juhu to Lokhandwala merely to create awareness on the subject. Similarly, activist Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahiti Adhikar Manch has been holding workshops across the city to educate people on this subject for the last few months.
But when it does not help in changing the poll outcome, why is it becoming a talking point?
"Even if it does not change the outcome, it will give a strong message to political parties on the image of their candidate among people. Also, those of us who did not vote in previous elections out of cynicism, can now express our displeasure on record," said Prabhu, who claimed that at a recent workshop in South-Central Mumbai attended by 400 young voters, 10% said they would opt for NOTA.
Five group housing societies in Borivli (East) and a few thousand residents of Mulund, were the first to announce their decision to choose NOTA as a mark of protest against local civic problems.
"We are angry with political parties for siding with squatters and stalling the widening of our colony road. This is our way of getting back at politicians who take us for granted," said Nancy Nagvekar, a member of Kajupada Hill Residents Association (proposed).
Nagvekar claimed that the five societies had at least 1,000 voters. Though they had approached the local candidates—Sanjay Nirupam and Gopal Shetty—both didn't respond positively, the residents claimed.
Interestingly, Nirupam and Shetty have not been campaigning in these societies. "May be the word has reached them," said a resident.
NOTA was introduced for the first time in the assembly elections in Nov-Dec 2013, where it made a notable impact with more than 15 lakh people in four states opting for it. As per official figures, just 1.31% of the total 11.53 crore voters used the option. In Delhi, 49,730 voted NOTA, in Chattisgarh, it was 3.56 lakh, while in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, 5.9 lakh and 5.67 lakh voters, respectively, pressed NOTA button.