MALKANGIRI : The ruling BJD is likely to face a tough fight to retain the 15-member Zilla Parishad unlike the 2012 rural poll with the Bengali voters shifting loyalty to the BJP.
The Bengali voters hold the key to the outcome of the election in all the 15 ZP seats, particularly seven ZP zones under Malkangiri Assembly constituency, political observers here said.
If sources are to be believed, more than 85,000 Bengali voters, who form a major part of the electorate in Malkangiri constituency, have shifted their loyalty to the BJP from the BJD.
The ruling party candidates are likely to face stiff opposition from the rival BJP and Congress candidates, particularly after a major section of Bengali voters shifted loyalty to the BJP. It will be a tough job for the BJD in at least eight ZP zones to recapture the council. Though Malkangiri MLA Manas Madkami and actors Arindam Ray and Siddhanta Mahapatra have campaigned in Podia and Kalimela panchayat samiti limits having seven ZP seats, it seems to have little impact.
Admitting shifting of loyalty of Bengali voters towards the BJP, a top BJD leader, on condition of anonymity, said it would be very difficult to win a majority of seats unless the party makes serious efforts to woo the Bengali voters. Meanwhile, all the political parties have intensified their campaign as the polling day draws to a close.