Narendra Modi, Sonia Face-off in Balasore Today - The New Indian Express

Narendra Modi, Sonia Face-off in Balasore Today

Published: 11th April 2014 08:05 AM

Last Updated: 11th April 2014 12:42 PM

Political barometer in North Odisha has begun to soar as BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi will almost have a direct face-off in Balasore on Friday.

 While pundits enthuse over the clash of titans __ the two top leaders of the country will lock horns at same place on the same day for the first time __ the rallies will also be an indicator to the direction the political wind is blowing in the State. The rallies in Balasore are being viewed as the launch of an intense onslaught by both the parties to break into the BJD citadel that the North and Coastal Odisha have turned over the last decade.

 The BJP has pinned high hopes on the rally by its current tallest leader to set the pace for the second phase polls on April 17. Buoyed by the impact of Modi’s visits to Western Odisha districts, which pollsters have projected to have shored up the party’s chances in the first phase, the State unit is leaving no stone unturned to make it a success.

 The Permit Field Ground at Balasore has a capacity to accommodate around one lakh people. “But as we expect a surge, a wall between the ground and a private property has been broken with the permission of the owner to accommodate more number of people. Besides, LED and LCD display units for live telecast of Modi’s speech accompanied by sound systems will stretch more than i km”, party coordinator Umakanta Mohapatra said.

 Modi will address the rally at Balasore at around 9.50 am  before going to Keonjhar and Talcher during the day. “There is tremendous excitement among the people for Modi’s rally. The visit of the PM-elect will definitely bolster the BJP’s prospects not only in Balasore, but also in neighbouring districts of Bhadrak and Mayurbhanj,” party candidate and sitting Nilagiri MLA Pratap Sarangi said.

 Sonia Gandhi will address a rally within hours at the ITI ground, located less than 3 km from Modi-rally site. But the mood in the party ranks borders more on apprehension than enthusiasm. A sizeable section of the party did not want the rally, which was rescheduled from April 10 to April 11, to be held on the same day as that of Modi.

 “There will be obvious comparisons even as several factors like small ground and afternoon rally timing under oppressive heat conditions will work against us. The rally could have been held a day apart,” conceded a senior Congress leader.

The Balasore Lok Sabha seat will witness a triangular fight between MP and Union Minister Srikant Jena, Rabindra Jena of BJD and Pratap Sarangi. Srikant Jena had won the seat by around 39,000 votes in 2009 defeating Arun Dey of NCP. Dey quit NCP just before the elections to join the BJD and left almost immediately after being denied ticket to contest the Balasore Assembly seat as Congress candidate.

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