The ruling BJD in Odisha is contemplating changing its strategy and criteria for the selection of candidate for the December 5 by-election in Padmapur assembly segment in Bargarh district following the BJP’s victory in the recently concluded Dhamnagar by-poll.
The Biju Janata Dal had won all by-polls since 2009 but lost the Dhamnagar Assembly by-election in Bhadrak district to the BJP.
BJD sources said that the party would bank on leaders hailing from western region of the state in Padmapur assembly by-poll based on its Dhamnagar experience. The opposition BJP could successfully create an impression among the people of Dhamnagar that the leaders from neighbouring Jajpur district are taking decisions on by-polls while the local district leaders have been neglected, a party leader said.
Keeping the regional feeling in mind, the party this time for Padmapur assembly by-poll in Bargarh district, has roped in senior leaders of western Odisha, he said. Senior leader of the region, Prasanna Acharya will look after election campaigning and look into the poll management at Padmapur while former minister Susant Singh will also be given major responsibility keeping in view his organisational skills.
This apart, three senior ministers have been allotted one block each of Padmapur assembly segment. Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari will look after Padmapur block while Health and Family Welfare Minister Naba Kishore Das has been given the charge of Paikamal block and Planning and Convergence Minister Rajendra Dholakia to look after Jharibandha block.
BJD’s prominent western Odisha faces like Women and Child Development Minister Tukuni Sahu, MLA Debesh Acharya, ex-minister Snehangini Chhuria, minister Rita Sahu, MLA Saroj Meher and Puspendra Singhdeo have been asked to campaign for the party at the grassroots level.
The regional party, which played the women card and fielded Abanti Das, a leader of the Women Self Help Group (WSHG) as its candidate in the Dhamnagar assembly by-poll, however, lost the by-poll.
BJP’s Suryabanshi Suraj defeated BJD’s Abanti Das by a margin of 9,881 votes.
The ruling party, hitherto, adopted a policy of fielding more and more women in elections as part of its women empowerment programme. However, the experiment appeared to have failed in Dhamnagar despite more female voters exercising their franchise in the November 3 by-poll.
The BJD in 2019 Lok Sabha polls fielded women in 30 per cent seats and also framed a law making it mandatory to reserve 50 per cent seats for women in panchayat and urban polls. The opposition BJP, however, alleged that the BJD was using the WSHG members as ”vote bank”.
On the BJD candidate for Padmapur by-poll, party vice president Debi Prasad Mishra said: ”Our party president and chief minister Naveen Patnaik will announce the name of the candidate for Padmapur by-polls after taking feedback from the ground level.” The Padmapur by-poll is necessitated due to death of sitting BJD MLA Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha on October 3, 2022.
Apart from Bariha’s wife Tilottama Singh Bariha, at least four other local leaders are in the race for the BJD ticket. Meanwhile, Tilotama said: ”I am optimistic of getting the ticket. I hope the Chief Minister will shower his blessings and give me a ticket for the by-poll to enable me to fulfil the dreams of my late husband. I am keen to serve the people Padmapur.” Earlier, Patnaik had fielded wives of three prominent leaders in elections after demise of their husbands and the party won all of them. The BJD had fielded Rita Sahoo, wife of Subal Sahu in Bijepur and she won the seat. Similarly, wife of ex-Speaker Kishore Mohany, Alaka Mohanty also won the by-poll in Brajrajnagar this year while Sabitri Agarwal, wife of Bedprakash Agarwal, was elected as the MLA of Patkura seat.
Though BJP has not made formal announcement, its former MLA and president of party’s Krushak Morcha Pradip Purohit is likely to be the saffron nominee for Padmapur seat.
BJP general secretary Prithiviraj Harichandan said, ”The party’s Odisha in-charge Sunil Bansal and veteran leader Daggubati Purandeswari will visit the state ahead of bypoll. Bargarh MP Suresh Pujari, Kalahandi MP Basant Panda and Opposition leader Jay Narayan Mishra have been asked to intensify election campaigning at Padmapur. BJP leaders from the Western Odisha have been asked to remain present at Padmapur during election.” Meanwhile, the Congress has formed a committee headed by senior leader Kishore Patel to select a suitable candidate for Padmapur by-election.
Congress MLA Santosh Singh Saluja is confident that his party will ”perform very well” in Padmapur bypoll.