Bhubaneswar, Oct 17/10: The campaigning for the by election to the Bijepur assembly constituency reached feverish pitch with only two days left for the campaign to end. The voting will be held on October 21.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today started his two-day campaign for his party nominee Rita Sahu. Union petroleum and steel minister Dharmendra Pradhan will conduct his last leg campaign for BJP candidate Sanat Gadtia Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishhra, party MLAs and senior leaders have been camping in Bijepur to campaign in favour of the party nominee Dilip Panda .
Bijepur has been in the limelight as this western Odisha constituency is witnessing three elections in a row within last two years. The current bypoll has been necessitated by the resignation of chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who had won the seat in the recent general election in April. Naveen, who had won the seat along Hinjili in Ganjam, has left it retaining Hinjili.
Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan during his recent campaign in Bijepur last week, had posed an awkward question to Naveen – “Why did you quit Bijepur ?” This question has remained unanswered.
Naveen, who heads the party’s star campaigners, today flew to Bijepur to give finishing touch to the party’s campaign for the ongoing bypoll. The chief minister, who is scheduled to address as many as 45 street corner meetings during two days, will make a night halt at Bargarh tonight. As earlier, Naveen promised the people of Bijepur to ensure fast development of this under developed constituency under his direct supervision. “Apamane khusi ta “ (Are you happy ?)- Naveen’s three-worded magic question asked from above his high tech bus, greeted the crowd who nodded. But the euphoria among the people of Bijepur seems missing this time.
The Congress leaders, on the other hand, reminded the people that whatever development has taken place in western Odisha in the past, has been carried out during their party regime. “ Has Naveen built any major irrigation project or any new port ? “, asked Congress Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishra pointing out that the Lower Suktel and Ong irrigation projects, initiated by the Congress government, have not been complete by the Naveen Patnaik government. Mishra accused the BJD government of forgetting to fulfil the electoral promise of Gangadhar Meher irrigation project.
Bijepur assembly constituency was considered as a Congress stronghold till 2018 as it was won by Congress MLA Subal Sahu thrice. Subal’s untimely death necessitated a by-election. But the seat was snatched away by the ruling Biju Janata Dal from the hands of Congress as Subal’s widow Rita was fielded as its candidate. Cashing on the sympathy wave, Rita had won the seat by 43,000 vote margin, defeating her BJP rival former legislator Ashok Panigrahi. The Congress slipped to the third slot.
In the subsequent election next year, Naveen was the ruling party candidate himself. The sitting MLA Rita was dropped. The two main opposition parties BJP and Congress had changed their contestants. BJP fielded Sanat Gadtia and Congress set up former minister Ripunath Seth against the chief minister. But for the current by election, Naveen has brought back Rita as the ruling party candidate. BJP, on the other hand, has retained Sanat Gadtia while the Congress has replaced local leader Dilip Panda with Ripunath Seth, triggering dissidence within the two opposition parties.
However, the political observers have kept their fingers crossed about the possible outcome of this bypoll.