Biju Janata Dal (BJD) candidate Rita Sahu registered an impressive victory in the Bijepur Assembly constituency in western Odisha when results of the bypoll were declared on Thursday. She defeated Sanat Gartia of the Bharatiya Janata Party by a record margin of 97,990 votes.
Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik, who had campaigned for two days for the bypoll, congratulated Ms. Sahu for her “huge historic win, breaking all records in Odisha’s electoral history”.
While Ms. Sahu polled 1,35,957 votes, Mr. Gartia secured 37,967 votes. Congress nominee Dillip Panda put up a dismal performance by bagging only 5,873 votes.
CM vacates seat
The bypoll was necessitated after Mr. Patnaik, who contested from two Assembly seats for the first time in the elections held earlier this year, vacated Bijepur and retained Hinjili seat in his home district Ganjam in south Odisha.
In fact, Mr. Patnaik was elected from Bijepur by defeating Mr. Gartia by 57,122 votes. He had bagged 1,10,604 votes, while Mr. Gartia had secured 53,482 votes and Congress nominee Ripunath Seth had got 14,344 votes.
In the previous bypoll in Bijepur that was held in February 2018 following death of Ms. Sahu’s husband and then Congress MLA Subal Sahu, she had won as a BJD candidate by a margin of over 41,000 votes.
The Congress, which had won the Bijepur seat in the three elections held before the February 2018 bypoll, has been gradually losing its vote share in the seat in the last three elections, primarily due to its weak leadership at the State level.
Vote share up
But what came as a surprise for many this time was the drastic decrease in the BJP’s vote share within a short span of time. The party’s decline from 53,482 votes in the elections held earlier this year to 37,967 votes in the current bypoll has left many leaders of the party dumbfounded. The bonhomie between the party and the BJD in the aftermath of the general election was said to have been the contributing factor.
While the Chief Minister led the BJD’s campaign, the BJP’s effort was led by Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who campaigned for two days. The campaign for the Congress was led by the party’s State unit president Niranjan Patnaik.