Bibhuti Mohapatro | Apr 11, 2019 | 5 min read
One of the four states where election for the state Assembly and Lok Sabha are being held simultaneously, Odisha saw largely incident-free polling.
Only, voting began a little while after the scheduled time in some booths because of technical snags in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). On Thursday, Odisha's four Lok Sabha seats and 28 Assembly seats went to polls in phase 1 of the country's election schedule. In total, the state has 21 parliamentary seats and 147 Assembly seats.
The electorate decided the fate of parliamentary constituencies of Koraput, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Berhampore along with the seven Assembly seats falling under each of them. The state's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Surendra Kumar said the final voting percentage for Lok Sabha election stood at __ while the figure for Assembly polls was __.
He informed that no untoward incident took place anywhere and polling started at the scheduled time of 7 am in most of the booths. He said a few polling booths could begin voting only after a 30-40 minute delay owing to issues with EVMs and/or Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).
He said the Election Commission's sector officers intervened immediately and replaced the faulty machines. He said the deadline for voting wasn't extended in these booths as there's no such provision.
He further said that of the 28 Assembly seats, 20 are in Maoist-affected areas and thus polling ended there at 4 pm. In the remaining seats, voting continued till 6 pm.
Of the 28 seats, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) had won 21 the last time around whereas five were bagged by the Congress and two by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). All the four Lok Sabha seats had gone to the BJD. In three Lok Sabha seats—Berhampur, Nabarangpur and Koraput—the BJP had failed to win a single Assembly seat.
Having adopted a 'Look East' policy, the party is aiming to win more than 120 seats this time. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to party National President Amit Shah, the BJP has used its top star campaigners in all the four Lok Sabha seats. Besides, senior BJP leader and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan too has held over a dozen meetings and road shows in these constituencies.
After the 2014 polls, the BJP had scanty presence in southern Odisha but its fortunes might change this time owing to defection by senior BJD leaders. A host of long-time leaders of the ruling party--Nabarangpur MP Balabhadra Majhi, former MP Jayram Pangi, former chief minister Giridhar Gamang, MLA Basanti Mallick and ex-MLA K Narayan Rao--have switched allegiance.
Political analyst Rabi Das told FirstPost the anti-incumbency factor might work against Naveen Patnaik-led BJD this time as the party has been in power since 2000. That said, he noted that Patnaik as the Chief Minister is still a popular face, particularly among women due to his Mission Shakti welfare scheme. He said this scheme can boost the party's vote share. He pointed out that more than 50% of the voters in phase 1 are women.
Das said a pro-Modi undercurrent is also being felt in the state, thanks to massive campaigning by the BJP machinery. He said all the 28 Assembly seats used to be the Congress's stronghold once upon a time, adding that the party has fielded good candidates in some of the seats and released a promising manifesto. However, he opined that the Grand Old Party failed to reach out to voters effectively.
Heavyweights in fray
Thursday's polling sealed the fate of many political heavyweights of all the three major parties (BJD, BJP, Congress). Three state ministers and multiple former minister, MLAs, MPs and ex-MLAs are vying to win again.
In Bhawanipatna Assembly constituency, former minister Pradipta Nayak of the BJP is up against former MLA and BJD candidate Dushmanta Nayak and the Congress’ Sagar Das. Sagar is the son of senior Congress leader and party candidate for Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat, Bhakta Charan Das.
The BJP has set high hopes on Pinky Pradhan who will take on sitting minister and BJD vice-president Surjya Narayan Patro for Digapahandi seat. There was a triangular fight for Jeypore Assembly segment under Koraput LS seat. Former MLA and BJD candidate Rabi Narayan Nanda, Congress chief whip in Assembly Taraprasad Bahinipati and BJP’s Goutam Samantray have locked horns for the seat. While Nanda and Bahinipati are known faces in the area, BJP’s new face Goutam has a strong presence here. Krushna Chandra Sagaria, a former Congress MLA from Koraput, is contesting for the seat from BSP ticket.
Other prominent leaders include Bhujabal Majhi (Congress), Chandrasekhar Majhi (Congress), former minister Pradeep Panigrahi (BJD), minister Usha Devi (BJD), former CM’s son Sisir Gamang (BJP), former minister Lal Bihari Himirika (BJD), sitting MLA Dibya Sabkar Mishra (BJD) and former RS member Bhupinder Singh (BJD).
Apart from these parties, Bahujan Samaj Party has fielded candidates for 23 MLA seats in the state while Samajwadi Party is contesting a lone seat, Junagarh.
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