All eyes on Naveen Patnaik in Odisha second phase

Pre-poll violence indicate the State has entered a more intense phase with both the BJP and the BJD competing fiercely for 5 Parliamentary and 35 Assembly seats 

Updated - May 18, 2024 02:34 am IST

Published - May 17, 2024 07:22 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik addresses supporters during a roadshow in Bhubaneswar.

Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik addresses supporters during a roadshow in Bhubaneswar. | Photo Credit: ANI

After a calm initial phase of elections in Odisha, the State has entered a more intense phase with both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) competing fiercely as five Lok Sabha seats and 35 Assembly seats are set to be contested on May 20.

The prominent contenders in phase two include Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, former Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, former Indian hockey captain Dilip Tirkey, former Union Minister and hotelier Dilip Ray, and BJP’s four-time Lok Sabha Sangeeta Singh Deo.

As many as 40 candidates are contesting from five LS seat while 265 candidates are in fray for 35 Assembly seats. As many as 79,62,148 voters will exercise their franchise in the fifth (Odisha’s second) on May 20.

The five Lok Sabha seats for which voting will take place are Aska, Kandhamal, Balangir, Bargarh and Sundargarh. While BJD had won Aska and Kandhamal, the rest three had gone to BJP in 2019. As the electoral fight appears to be closer this election, both parties have resorted to man-to-man marking.

The pre-poll violence in Ganjam, Odisha CM’s home district, that left one BJP supporter dead and BJP’s Berhampur Lok Sabha candidate Pradeep Panigrahy assaulted and forced Chief Electoral Officer to send 20 companies of central armed police force to the district signalled fierce battle.

The BJP appears to firing on all cylinders by deploying its central leadership. Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled States such as Assam, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan are addressing marathon public meetings in the State on Friday. Home Minister Amit Shah is touring Rourkela. Besides, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and MP Hema Malini are also in the State seeking support for their party candidates.

The State BJD had submitted a list of star campaigners’ list. However, most public rallies are being addressed by Mr. Patnaik and his close aide V.K. Pandian. Similarly, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had addressed two meetings in Kandhamal and Balangir.

The Odisha CM is running for re-election from his long-time Assembly constituency of Hinjili and the newly selected Kantabanji constituency. By choosing Kantabanji, a key transit point for family migration, he has brought significant attention to this issue in the election. Consequently, migration and unemployment have become the most discussed topics in this phase. If Mr. Patnaik wins and his party goes on to form the government, he would become CM for the sixth straight times and the longest-serving CM of the country in next few months.

The personal attack on each other’s leadership dominated the campaign in the run up to the second phase, putting the issues like price rise and under-development on the back burner.

The phase is particularly important for Odisha BJP as the saffron party wants to retain the seats of Bargarh, Balangir and Sundargarh in order to improve its tally from the State. Odisha police and paramilitary forces are keeping close watch on Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat which had witnessed incidences of left wing extremist activities during past couple of years.

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