Those unhappy with GST could use the None of the Above option in the Gujarat assembly elections 2017. NOTA is being made available for the first time in the assembly polls in Gujarat.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, NOTA was used by more than 4.20 lakh voters. Analysts are of the view that some caste groups and also sections of small and medium entrepreneurs, who seem to be unhappy with the BJP over the GST, may make use of NOTA.
The BJP, however, dismissed the suggestion that NOTA could prove to be a spoiler as the party was confident of the popular appeal of its policies as reflected by the outcome of the recent panchayat polls.
During the 2012 Assembly elections, the option was not available on the EVMs.
According to a political analyst, NOTA was used by more than 4.20 lakh voters in Gujarat in the 2014 general elections.
"That time, the Congress was going through its worst political phase and a strong anti-incumbency sentiment was prevailing across the central and western India. Still, some 4.20 lakh voters used NOTA," the analyst said.
"This time, some socio-economic segments are disappointed with the ruling BJP. Some castes are aggressively opposing the saffron party, while some sectors, such as small and medium scale industries, are severely criticising it for the way it introduced the GST and pushed for it. The NOTA votes will come from these sectors, who had earlier supported the BJP leaders," he said.
However, a BJP leader said, "The number of voters has increased in the last five years. The youth have largely benefited and are satisfied with the BJP government. Even if we accept that some people would use NOTA instead of voting for a BJP candidate, still we have support of the newly-added voters,"
When asked about the votes in the 2014 elections, he said, "The overall voting for the BJP had increased in the 2014 polls. I don't think NOTA would be a spoiler for us. If some voters are going to use NOTA, then both major parties would be affected and not just the BJP."
Meanwhile, the Congress has changed its approach towards the option, especially after a new pre-poll survey predicted the party securing at least 78 seats in the 182-member House.
"Earlier, the NOTA was expected to cut the margin of the BJP. Now, with NOTA and some consolidation of non-BJP and anti-BJP voters, we could win some seats," a senior Congress leader said.
Compared to the Lok Sabha elections, mobilisation of voters in the Assembly election is always higher, which also means compared to 2014, more people will vote in 2017, the leader added.
According to political observers, there is another factor which could be crucial - mobilisation of voters by Patidar quota agitation spearhead Hardik Patel, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, who all are opposed to the BJP.
Though the OBCs are slightly skeptical of Mr. Hardik Patel's quota demand, the Congress has claimed to have addressed the differences and focused on maximum consolidation of these votes in its favour.