A battle of prestige between BJP, BJD at Patkura
Bhubaneswar, July 07: With the Election Commission (EC) announcing July 20 as the date of polling in Patkura assembly segment, Odisha's three major political parties have begun gearing their machineries for the high-voltage fight in coastal Kendrapara district.
According to political analysts, election to Patkura seat, currently held by the BJD, will be a prestige battle for the Naveen Patnaik-led party and the opposition BJP, as both were keen on increasing their tally in the House.
While the ruling retained its position in the recently concluded polls by winning 112 of the 146 Assembly seats, five less than what it had won in 2014, the rival BJP, this time, increased its tally from 10 to 23.
In the Lok Sabha elections, too, the saffron party managed to bag eight out of 21 Lok Sabha seats, up from one in 2014, while the Patnaik-led party secured 12 seats.
Polls in Patkura assembly segment have been deferred twice - first due to the death of BJD candidate and then in the wake of cyclone Fani.
The saffron party has fielded from the seat veteran leader Bijay Mohapatra, a well-known bte-noire of the chief minister. He would be taking on BJD greenhorn Sabitri Agarwal and Congress nominee Jayant Mohanty.
Sabitri is the widow of former minister and sitting MLA Bed Prakash Agarwal, whose death led to postponement of elections in Patkura the first time.
With the chief minister seen visiting the famous Baladevjew temple in Kendrapara on the occasion of Snana Purnima last month, it seems that the BJD will be pulling out all stops to win the Patkura election.
Meanwhile, BJP's Mohapatra has also launched a voter outreach campaign to garner support. Newly elected Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi was also seen conducting roadshow in Patkura earlier this week to seek votes for BJP.
Mohapatra, a founder member of the ruling BJD, had joined the BJP before the 2014 elections owing to his differences with Patnaik and his party leaders.
"I have complete faith on the people of Patkura. The BJD's poll tricks will fail to yield any result as voters are determined to strengthen Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They are not for sale," Mohapatra said.
Sabitri Agarwal, on her part, asserted that she was confident that people of Patkura will vote for the BJD again.
Her husband had been representing the constituency since 2009.
"I am confident about my victory because I know that Patkura will never disappoint Naveen Patnaik. The people here will certainly vote for the BJD again," she said.
Odisha Congress unit chief Niranjan Patnaik, when asked about his game plan for Patkura, said his party "would contest the election with all sincerity".
The EC, in its notification, has said adequate number of EVMs and VVPATs will be made available for the polls and all steps will to be taken to ensure free and fair election.
Counting of votes in the assembly seat will be taken up on July 24, it added.