NABARANGPUR: NOTA (None Of The Above) option on the EVM, available to voters since the 2014 General Elections, is giving sleepless nights to candidates from Nabarangpur Parliamentary constituency this time.
Aspirants and analysts alike believe that NOTA, which provides voters the right to reject a candidate, may change political equations in the constituency. And the apprehension is not unfounded because a whopping 44,408 NOTA votes were recorded in the tribal dominated constituency in the 2014 polls, the highest in Odisha.
Incidentally, former Congress MP Pradeep Majhi had lost the seat by a slender margin of 2,042 votes in the last elections while out of seven candidates in the fray, four had garnered less votes than NOTA. In a district where almost half the population is illiterate and people in remote pockets have no clue what NOTA means, many candidates would be closely watching the NOTA factor.
Looking at the number of NOTA votes, political observers are of the view the real mood of voters was not reflected in the constituency in the last elections. It is widely believed by political party leaders that illiterate voters had pushed the NOTA button mistaking it for a candidate of their choice. Their argument may be justified as voters from the rural areas of the district had in the past stamped back of the ballot papers rendering their votes useless.
According to former president of BJP and senior advocate Jhadeswar Khadanga, considering the low literacy rate in the district, especially in rural areas, NOTA is not a suitable option for voters.
Congress working president Pradeep Majhi believes NOTA is changing equations in constituencies like Nabarangpur where the majority of voters are unaware of it. “It should be withdrawn,” he said.