Congress-BJP tussle over NOTA in Indore continues on polling day

Local Congress leader claims tables put up by party at various polling booths in the constituency were removed ‘at the behest of the BJP’; State BJP spokesperson does not agree as he says nobody in Indore is ‘even mentioning’ the NOTA campaign

Published - May 14, 2024 04:58 am IST - BHOPAL

The war of words between the BJP and the Congress in Indore that began after the withdrawal of the Opposition party’s official candidate extended to polling day as the constituency voted on Monday during the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha election in Madhya Pradesh.

After Congress candidate Akshay Kanti Bam withdrew his nomination for the Indore Lok Sabha seat on April 29, the Congress began a distinct campaign urging the electorate in the constituency to press the none of the above (NOTA) option in the electronic voting machines (EVMs) accusing the BJP of “murdering the democracy”.

Indore city Congress president Surjeet Chadda, speaking to media, alleged that tables put up by the party at various polling booths in the seat were removed “at the behest of the BJP”.

Earlier, Mr. Chadda had told The Hindu that the party’s requests of campaigning for NOTA through radio had been denied by the district authorities, asking them to approach the State Election Commission.

“We had pasted posters [supporting NOTA] on more than 4,000 auto-rickshaws. The BJP was startled by this and its leaders started tearing them down,” he said, referring to a viral video showing a woman councillor of the BJP removing posters from autos.

State Minister and senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya, after casting his vote, dubbed the Congress’ campaign as “negative politics”. “I want to ask all the voters to cast your votes and give a tight slap on the faces of those who are doing negative politics in the city,” he told reporters, adding that the Congress campaign will have “no impact”.

A few incidents of arguments between the BJP and Congress workers over the latter’s campaign for NOTA were reported from Indore, while local BJP MLA Malini Singh accused a female polling officer of asking people to press NOTA.

In a video, Ms. Singh can be heard asking someone over the phone to remove the officer from the polling station.

Meanwhile, State BJP spokesperson Narendra Saluja, in a video on X, said the Congress’s claims about NOTA have been exposed and that nobody in Indore is “even mentioning it”.

“M.P. Congres president Jitu Patwari had made huge claims of taking out rallies for NOTA and keeping people at polling booths. But today he is nowhere to be seen in Indore city. At his own booth in Assembly seat (Rau), there is no Congress worker or table. Nobody is being seen even mentioning NOTA. The entire Indore is appearing Congress free,” he said.

Mr. Bam, accompanied by BJP MLA Ramesh Mendola, had taken back his nomination form, just five days after after a local court added charges of attempt to murder (IPC Section 307) in a 17-year-old case against him and his father. On May 10, the court also issued a non-bailable warrant against them after they failed to appear before the court citing health and personal reasons.

Mr. Bam was also welcomed into the BJP by Mr. Vijayvargiya.

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