BHUBANESWAR: Stakes are high for the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Opposition Congress in the polls to Balangir and Titlagarh urban local bodies (ULBs) in Western Odisha scheduled on July 1.
More than six ministers, four MPs and a dozen MLAs camped in the two ULBs to campaign for the BJD candidates. BJD’s high voltage campaign in the two ULBs sparked off strong reaction from the opposition political parties which demanded that ruling party leaders from outside the areas should be asked to leave.
Though Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik did not campaign in the ULBs, he kept a close watch on the proceedings. BJD has left nothing to chance to win from the two ULBs.
BJD candidate AU Singhdeo was defeated by Congress veteran Narasingha Mishra from the Balangir Assembly constituency in the elections held in April. A defeat in the ULB polls will be a loss of face for the Chief Minister who led BJD to a spectacular victory in the Assembly polls by winning 117 seats.
Though Congress is confident of repeating the performance of the Assembly polls, the party’s campaign was affected due to the absence of Mishra because of health reasons. Congress campaign was led by former OPCC president Sarat Patnaik, former minister Jagannath Patnaik and party MLAs Taraprasad Bahinipati and Subal Sahu.
The BJP also wants to make its present felt in the two ULBs by winning more seats compared to the last elections. Campaigning in the two ULBs came to a close on Sunday evening.
Voting will be held between 8 am and 5 pm. While polling officials have arrived at their respective destinations on Monday, voters will cast their votes in 71 booths of 21 Wards in Balangir Municipality and 27 booths of the 15-Ward Titlagarh NAC.
As many as 50 polling booths of Balangir Municipality have been identified as sensitive while 14 declared as hyper-sensitive. All the polling booths in Titlagarh have been declared as sensitive. Security has been tightened in both the towns.
While 14 platoons of security forces have been deployed in Titlagarh, which witnessed large scale violence following the alleged custodial death of a youth on Saturday, one platoon has been deployed in Balangir.