Indore political drama: Congress rallies behind NOTA after candidate switches party

This betrayal left Congress strategists reeling, prompting them to resort to an unconventional tactic: advocating for NOTA (None of the Above) votes to make a statement against the BJP.

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Courtesy: ANI

The Congress in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, faced a stunning setback when its Lok Sabha candidate withdrew from the race at the last moment and then joined the rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This betrayal left Congress strategists reeling, prompting them to resort to an unconventional tactic: advocating for NOTA (None of the Above) votes to make a statement against the BJP.

The Indore constituency, renowned for being one of Madhya Pradesh's largest electorates, hasn't seen a Congress victory in 35 years, dating back to 1989. However, the current scenario marks a first for the party, as it couldn't even field a candidate this time. With the BJP's incumbent MP Shankar Lalwani vying for reelection and Congress's Akshay Kanti Bam quitting both the race and the party, the political landscape took a dramatic turn.

Congress's NOTA push

After the rejection of their substitute candidate's plea to contest the party's symbol by the High Court, Congress decided to rally behind the NOTA option vigorously. This move has reignited the political fervor in Indore, prompting a response from the BJP, whose campaign seemed to relax amid a perceived lack of competition from the 13 other candidates in the fray.

What is state Congress's stand?

Jitu Patwari, the state Congress chief, made it clear that the party wouldn't endorse any remaining candidates and urged voters to register a record number of NOTA votes as a form of retribution against the BJP. The sentiment was echoed by senior Congress leader Sajjan Verma, who emphasized the need to safeguard democracy by utilizing the NOTA option.

NOTA: A tool of dissent

Since its inception in 2013, NOTA has served as a channel for voters to express discontent with all contesting candidates. Despite its symbolic value, NOTA votes don't influence the election outcome directly. However, a recent petition in the Supreme Court sought to change this by advocating for the annulment of elections in constituencies where NOTA secures the majority.

BJP's counter-response

Concerned about the optics of a surge in NOTA votes, the BJP has criticized the Congress's campaign as negative and detrimental to democracy. Instances of BJP supporters removing posters advocating for NOTA have sparked tensions, with BJP leaders condemning the Congress's approach as divisive.

What has Sumitra Mahajan said?

Veteran BJP leader Sumitra Mahajan, who represented Indore in Parliament for eight terms, expressed disappointment over the Congress candidate's withdrawal. While acknowledging voters' right to choose, she stated the importance of supporting BJP's candidate Shankar Lalwani over NOTA, citing the party's commitment to its core principles under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership.