Betrayed By Indore Pick, Congress Bats For NOTA To "Teach BJP A Lesson"

Jolted by its Indore Lok Sabha candidate withdrawing its nomination and then rubbing salt in its wounds by joining the BJP, the Congress is now banking on the NOTA - none of the above - option to "teach a lesson" to the ruling party.

May 11, 2024 - 19:15
Betrayed By Indore Pick, Congress Bats For NOTA To "Teach BJP A Lesson"

Jolted by its Indore Lok Sabha candidate withdrawing its nomination and then rubbing salt in its wounds by joining the BJP, the Congress is now banking on the NOTA - none of the above - option to "teach a lesson" to the ruling party. 

The Congress has not won the Indore constituency, Madhya Pradesh's biggest in terms of voters, in 35 years (since 1989), but this will be the first time it has not even been able to field a candidate. The BJP's nominee is sitting MP Shankar Lalwani and the Congress had given a ticket to Akshay Kanti Bam, who quit the race on the last day of withdrawing nominations and then proceeded to quit the party as well, switching over to its rival. 

After its substitute candidate's petition to contest from the constituency on the party's symbol was denied by the High Court, the Congress has launched a high-octane push for NOTA votes and has also forced a response from the BJP, whose campaign was seen as having slackened since it did not see much competition from the 13 other candidates still in the fray.

Indore will vote in the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections on Monday. 

The state Congress chief Jitu Patwari has said that the party will not support any of the remaining candidates and urged people to create a record of NOTA votes to punish the BJP.

Senior Congress leader Sajjan Verma, a former minister and former MP, said in Hindi in a video posted on X, "I appeal to the people of Indore... Our Congress candidate has been stolen by some people, who have deprived you of your right to vote. If you want to teach them a lesson, press the NOTA button and save democracy."

"Voters of Indore had delivered a huge victory to the BJP in the last municipal and assembly elections. Despite this, the BJP murdered democracy by unfairly luring Mr Bam. Voters must give a befitting reply to BJP by picking the NOTA option," senior Congress leader Shobha Ojha was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

The NOTA option was introduced at the Supreme Court's directions in 2013 and has given voters a way to express their dissatisfaction with all the candidates contesting the elections. The votes given to  NOTA do not impact the polls in any way and the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Election Commission last month on a petition seeking that an election in a constituency be declared void if the majority of voters choose NOTA.

'Attack On Democracy'

Wary of the optics of a record number of votes going to NOTA, however, the BJP has called the Congress' campaign a "negative tactic" and an "attack on democracy".

Earlier this week, BJP Councillor Sandhya Yadav was caught on camera removing a poster pasted on an auto by an organisation called the 'Loktantra Bachao Samiti' (Save Democracy Committee) asking people to cast their votes for NOTA. 

While the Congress has filed a complaint with the Election Commission, Ms Yadav told PTI that she would continue to remove such posters and that promoting the voting option was not in the interest of democracy.

Madhya Pradesh BJP chief VD Sharma also said "instigating" people to press NOTA was a crime in democracy. 

'Should Not Have Happened'

Another BJP leader and former Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan - who has won from Indore eight times - however, called the last-minute withdrawal of the Congress candidate unfair and said voters have a right to decide. 

"I was surprised to know about the withdrawal of the nomination of the main opposition party candidate in Indore... This should not have happened. There was no need for this development as it was written on the wall that nobody can defeat the BJP in Indore," she told PTI.

Stating that some people from the city had called her up to say they would choose NOTA as "they did not like what BJP did", Ms Mahajan added, "I explained to them that BJP has done nothing in this regard and that, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party is sticking to its core ideology and our candidate (Mr Lalwani) is in the fray, so they should vote for BJP instead of NOTA." 

Voice Team We covers wide range of topics, from startups and small businesses to multinational corporations, finance, marketing, technology, and more.