Call of the ballot proved strong as most of the Danda Nata troupes of Ganjam district preferred to return to their native places to vote on Thursday. Except some small troupes, larger ones had returned to places near their villages so that they could vote. On Thursday, very few troupes could be seen performing. Pramod Das, member of a troupe from Alarigarh area near Hinjli said most troupe members of their area had returned to vote but his troupe was compelled to stay back as they had to fulfil their contract made several months back to perform on the day at a particular household in the city. So, around twenty members of his troupe did not vote while others had returned to exercise their franchise. He added that majority of troupes, especially the larger ones having hundreds of members had preferred to return to their respective villages to vote as per past plans.
At the start of election process it was feared that Danda Nata, the festival of penance may keep away a large number of voters from voting in Ganjam district. Thousands of male devotees leave their homes to take up a nomadic life for a fortnight or 21 days till Mahavishub Sankranti which falls on April 14.
It was suspected that apart from the Danda Nata participants, several others who are attached to these troupes like the members of amateur theatre groups may also refrain from voting.
According to sources there are more than 200 Danda Nata troupes in Ganjam district. The smaller troupes have around 100 members while the larger ones have may have more than 1000 members. Apart from the performers a team of around 30 to 50 persons also travel along with them.
Ganjam district administration had initiated measures to persuade these troupes to return to their villages before the polling day which surely did had its impact, said Ganjam district collector Prem Chand Chaudhary. Through local officials as well as social organisations, the troupes were being requested to plan out their travel schedule in such a way that they would be near their respective villages by date of voting.
The troupe members however add that there was another catalyst behind their return to respective villages to vote. Political parties and leaders contesting the polls also took interest to motivate them to return and vote as their sizable number not be ignored by them.
The decision of the troupes to return back to vote had its impact on ‘Danda Nata’ festivities in Berhampur as the number of performances had gone down drastically in the city.