Festival coincides with polls in Ganjam, may affect voting

Berhampur (Odisha), March 18: Thousands of people in Ganjam district will skip voting on April 10 as the they will be away from their villages to participate in the seasonal folk dance festival 'Danda Nata'. The D-day coincides with the festive season which is celebrated from April 1 to 14 to appease Lord Shiva and Shakti.

In some places, it spreads over 21 days. Hundreds of troupes, each having over 21 to 1,000 members, visit village after village and perform dance in front of the house of those who invite them.

Drawn from various castes, the participants known as 'Dandua' believe that the divine power will fulfil their desires if they undergo physical sufferings and practise austerities the dance involves. Besides Ganjam, hundreds of people in Kandhamal, Gajapati and Nayagarh districts will also take part in celebrations. Elections in these districts are scheduled on April 10.

Thousands of people will be away from their villages for the festival Danda Nata

The polling percentage could be affected in these districts, with thousands of people keeping away from voting, poll observers said. While Ganjam district has two Lok Sabha constituencies (Aska and Berhampur) and 13 assembly segments, Kandhamal has one LS (Kandhamal) and three assembly segments. Nayagarh district has four assembly constituencies. Shortage of workers during poll season have also multiplied worries of political parties' leaders.

"We'll draw the attention of the EC to the situation in the region and request it to change the date of polling," said BJP leader Bibhuti Jena. "The poll schedule is contradicting EC's 100 per cent polling aim particularly in this region," said Ganjam district Congress committee President Bhagaban Gantayat. In 2009 polls, polling was not affected by 'Danda Nata' as the two-phase election was held on April 16 and 23, official sources said.


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