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Angry over quota, NOTA voters set to rise

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The Times Of India
22nd October, 2019 04:47 IST

Nagpur: The ‘None of The Above or NOTA’ option is once again going to make a mark on the assembly polls, but it would be bigger this time.

Despite frenetic calls by political parties and NGOs of not using it, over 4.82 lakh voters opted for it in Lok Sabha polls in the state. Primarily, the young voters used to opt for the last EVM button as they didn’t like the politicians, who’re mostly old and not as much educated.

This time, thousands of aggrieved parents and students from the open category have joined the youth brigade under the aegis of ‘Save Merit Save Nation (SMSN)’. Its members are protesting injustice meted out to open category students due to introduction of 12% Maratha quota and 10% EWS quota by the BJP-led governments in the state and Centre. Due to this, the open category seats have drastically reduced in both undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses.

The members, who often refer SMSN as a “movement of upper castes”, claimed that they had officially registered over 30,000 voters in Vidarbha and other parts of the state and unofficially, they have over ten lakh followers. The organization had called on all its members to opt for NOTA as a mark of protest against the BJP-led government. However, there was a split among its members as Marathi speaking members, mostly the core BJP voters, have opted out.

“We had given calls for NOTA only on our internal groups on the social media. It’s kind of symbolic protest against the government. The SMSN has united the upper caste citizens. Other communities have managed to pressurize the government. Now, we’re also united,” said SMSN coordinator Dr Anil Laddad.

Some like Vinod Fafat, an SMSN member, said he preferred NOTA to oppose excess reservation due to votebank politics. “I did not choose NOTA in LS polls because it was on a country level. In South-West constituency where I had voted, many had opted for this option for various reasons,” he said.

Young lawyer Ankita Shah said none of the candidates was suitable from her constituency. “An ideal candidate should work for the society’s betterment, but politicians these days are doing nothing for the public. I hope that in future, we get a better choice of candidates and NOTA voters will increase,” she said.

Another lawyer Nitin Lalwani believes that neither BJP nor Congress have capable leaders. “Two major candidates are contesting from North Nagpur where I reside and both don’t live up to my expectations. I am sure there must be more NOTA voters in this constituency.”

Echoing same sentiments, engineer Mustafa Sanawadwala said he also wanted to opt for NOTA in LS polls which he is regretting. “SMSN is one of the prime reasons for my decision, as I am completely against reservation.”

(With inputs from Anchal Bhatia)

NOTA votes in 2014 polls

LS polls in India: 59,78,208

LS polls in Maharashtra: 4,31,992

Assembly polls in Maharashtra: 4,82,574

Assembly polls in Vidarbha: 1,04,987

NOTA votes in Vid

Nagpur South West: 1017

Nagpur South: 1,276

Nagpur East: 1,051

Nagpur Central: 930

Nagpur West: 1,143

Nagpur North: 734

Katol: 550

Saoner: 2,681

Hingna: 709

Umred: 1,352

Kamptee: 2,962

Ramtek: 1,379

Total: 15,784

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