Lok Sabha Elections 2019: After 2014 scare, all eyes on NOTA in Samastipur seat

With elections approaching, the voter indifference could be a cause of major concern in Samastipur Lok Sabha seat which recorded a significant number of ‘NOTA” in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections
Some residents in Samastipur, Bihar. The striking in 2014 parliamentary polls was that ‘NOTA’ polled 29,211 votes in Samastipur Lok Sabha constituency.(HT Photo)
Some residents in Samastipur, Bihar. The striking in 2014 parliamentary polls was that ‘NOTA’ polled 29,211 votes in Samastipur Lok Sabha constituency.(HT Photo)
Updated on Apr 25, 2019 03:55 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Samastipur | ByArun Kumar

Bhuttu Mahto, 80, is a ‘divyang’ (physically challenged). A resident of Bhirha in Rosera block of Samastipur, he has three sons but no one to take care of him in old age and the government has not provided him old-age pension or a house.

Bhavesh Mahto, 70, is upset that despite building toilets, he has not got the promised amount. “We are asked to first pay Rs 2,000,” he says.

Still, both seem happy with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar, though they say they may not vote for the NDA if their grievances are not addressed.

“Development in the area is apparent, but corruption still persists and that affects us directly. Poor and illiterate people have to run around even for what the government gives us. I submitted my paper for ‘divyang’ pension a few days ago. Let’s see what happens. I did not get old age pension,” Bhutto Mahto says.

With elections approaching, the voter indifference could be a cause of major concern in Samastipur, which recorded a significant number of ‘NOTA” in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when the NDA candidate, Ramchandra Paswan of the LJP, defeated Congress’s Dr Ashok Kumar by just 6,872 votes despite the Modi wave.

The striking thing last time was that ‘NOTA’ polled 29,211 votes in Samastipur Lok Sabha constituency. Of the six assembly constituencies under the Lok Sabha seat, Rosera alone accounted for 6,083 NOTA votes, the highest and behind just three candidates.

Though the equations have changed significantly since 2014, with JD-U’s Maheshwar Hazari, who polled over two lakh votes in 2014, now on the NDA side and Grand Alliance banking heavily on the Muslim-Yadav (MY) factor, NOTA could hurt in case of yet another close finish.

“The contest is direct, and this time we are not thinking of NOTA. We will vote for lantern, come what may. Whoever is with lantern, we will vote for him,” says Md Gufran, 28, who has been living in village Gora for the last six months after the company he worked for in Mumbai closed down last year.

The divide is clear from one village to another, with some strongly talking strongly in favour of RJD-led Gand Alliance and others in full support of NDA.

At Kusheshwar Asthan, famous for its revered Shiv temple, people say Ramchandra Paswan could benefit from the fact that both Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar are on the same side this time.

“We don’t see the candidate. Whoever comes from NDA will get our votes. Ashok Kumar is a better candidate, but we have to strengthen the hands of Modiji and Nitish Kumar, as we have experienced development like never before,” says Suresh Mandal, adding caste could not always be a deciding factor.

Md Rafiq of village Asma, too, agrees. “I am a labourer. If there is ‘vikas’, the party must get votes. But corruption at times makes me wonder if I should vote. I have not got money for house or toilet, as there is huge manipulation at panchayat level.The political parties should understand that the rich and the mighty for whom they do so much never go to vote, while the poor do,” he says.

Congress leader Kishore Kumar Jha says the party nominee will be much better placed this time. “There is no wave and the people are not happy with the LJP candidate. We are also telling people not to waste vote, but vote decisively, as their representative will be accountable to them,” he says.

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