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Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: Signalling a perilous portend for the democracy in Odisha, the 2019 verdict has a shocker for the State. Voters in the State have opted for NOTA (none of the above) in a big way and the gravity is it played a crucial role in determining the fate of winning candidates.  Such a menacing trend has alarmed the leaders and experts alike in the State.

Sample this. Kaushalya Hikaka, BJD candidate from Koraput LS, has lost the polls to Congress’ Saptagiri Ulaka by a margin of only 3,613 votes. In contrast, the NOTA votes polled in the LS constituency had totalled to a whopping 36,525.

Such a high NOTA, to the scale of 10-times of the winning margin, shows a sort of high level of disenchantment among the voters for the candidates in the fray. This is a big signal for the political parties, feels Sahadev Sahu, Core Committee member of Odisha Election Watch.

Now, take the case of Laxmipur Assembly constituency. Here BJD’s Prabhu Jani won by a slender win of mere 229 votes against Kailash Kulesika of Congress. Interestingly, NOTA count here is a high of 7,026.

Experts are of the opinion that had the voters exercised their franchise for a particular candidate, instead of NOTA, the result would have been different altogether.

The data with Election Commission reveals in 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the State, NOTA numbers are next to votes of BJP, BJD and Congress.

In Odisha, a total of 3, 10, 494 voters have opted for NOTA, which on an average is a high of 14,790 per Lok Sabha constituency. Nabarangpur has recorded the maximum number of NOTAs, where the count was 44, 582.

The NOTA trend has sparked a serious concern among voters, leaders and experts alike. The question that begs their mind is why voters of tribal dominated districts like Koraput, Nabarangpur have chosen NOTA so profusely.

Congress Jeypore MLA elect Tara Bahinipati  observed it an intentional and well-thought out decision by voters to go for NOTA, instead of candidates.

However, Dabugaon MLA Manohar Randhari said voters need to be made more aware so that they can realise the importance of their votes.

BJP State Vice-president Sameer Mohanty termed the development dangerous for democracy. He called upon candidates and political parties to seriously ponder over the rising NOTA menace.

“I think many voters out of ignorance think NOTA is also a candidate, so they are selecting the option,” said a voter.

However, experts are of the view that even though NOTA  have no real significance in electing candidates, but it has an ethical significance in the electoral process.

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