The result of Odisha’s Koraput Lok Sabha seat, reserved for Scheduled Tribes, has served to caution politicians that the None Of The Above (NOTA) button on the electronic voting machines cannot be taken lightly.
In fact, Koraput turned out to be the only face-saver for the Congress in the State. Its candidate Saptagiri Sankar Ulaka, with 3,71,129 votes, defeated his nearest Biju Janata Dal rival Kausalya Hikaka by a slender margin of 3,613 votes. Ms. Hikaka got 3,67,516 votes.
Thumbs up for NOTA
But the total number of votes cast under NOTA was 36,561 in this constituency. The winning margin of the Congress was much less than the votes cast under the NOTA option in this tribal-dominated constituency. It was around 3.4% of the total votes, while the winning margin was around 0.4%.
Jayaram Pangi of the BJP was in the third position with 2,08,398 votes. Four of the seven contestants in this Lok Sabha seat got lesser votes than NOTA.
Bhaskar Mutuka of the Bahujan Samaj Party secured 35,764 votes, Damodar Sobor of CPI-ML(Liberation) 26,117, Banamali Majhi of Ambedkarite Party of India 18,849, while Rajendra Kendruka of CPI-ML (Red Star) got 15,827 votes.
According to Sudhakar Patnaik, a political analyst of undivided Koraput district, this indicates that voters of this so-called underdeveloped tribal constituency too are conscious about their voting rights and NOTA. “Even the maid who works at our home had asked me to explain NOTA to her a few days before polling,” he added.
In 2014 polls too NOTA had played a similar role in the adjoining Nabarangpur Lok Sabha seat of the undivided Koraput district. BJD candidate Balabhadra Majhi had defeated his Congress rival by 2,042 votes, while the total number of votes cast under NOTA was 44,408.
But even with this slender margin win, the Congress could regain its old bastion Koraput, after a gap of 15 years. Ample division of votes among seven candidates and NOTA is said to be a major reason behind the Congress win. Since its inception in 1957, the Koraput parliamentary constituency had remained a Congress bastion till 2004.