NATIONAL

Odds against BJD in byelection

BHADRAK MAY 29. As campaigning for the bypoll to Orissa's Bhadrak Assembly constituency drew to a close on Wednesday, the stakes remained high for the main contenders to the seat — the ruling Biju Janata Dal and the Opposition Congress. The constituency goes to the polls on Friday.The Congress had won the seat in the Assembly polls in February 2000. The bypoll was necessitated by the death of the MLA, Biren Palai, in a road accident last year.

As the odds are against the BJD, the campaign was spearheaded by the party chief and Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, who extensively toured the constituency for three days. He was joined by a host of party colleagues who included MPs, Central and State Ministers and MLAs.

According to political observers, Mr. Patnaik is doing his best to ensure the victory of his party nominee and former Minister, Prafulla Samal, as a defeat may weaken his leadership. The Congress nominee, Naren Palai, is likely to get a large number of Muslim votes as the BJD was running a coalition Government with the BJP. Of the 1,87,000 voters in the constituency, 43,000 were Muslims.

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