The trend in the fourth phase of panchayat polls continued on the expected lines with the BJD leading in more seats than BJP though the latter consolidated its position further by closing the gap with the ruling party.
According to the unofficial trends of counting received here so far, the BJD was leading or had won in 88 Zilla Parishad zones while the BJP was close behind the ruling party by establishing lead in 64 zones. While the Congress was ahead in 7 seats, others were leading in two seats.
As the situation became more clear on Sunday, the BJP has established its dominance in the Western Odisha belt except Nuapada and Jharsuguda districts and is in a position to form Zilla Parishads in Kalahandi, Mayurbhanj, Malkangiri, Balangir, Sonepur, Sambalpur, Bargarh and Deogarh districts.
Several top leaders of the BJD including Speaker of the Assembly Niranjan Pujari, Rajya Sabha members Prasanna Acharya, AU Singhdeo, senior ministers Jogendra Behera, Pushpendra Singhdeo, Lok Sabha MP from Kalahandi Arka Keshari Deo have faced severe reverses in their constituencies in the panchayat polls.
However, in the coastal districts, the BJD has been able to maintain its supremacy though the BJP has made heavy inroads into strongholds of the ruling party. BJP’s gain in Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Cuttack is unexpected.
Unofficial trends indicate that the ruling BJD is now in a position to form Zilla Parishads in 13 districts of Jagatsinghpur, Ganjam, Kendrapara, Angul, Balasore, Bhadrak, Dhenkanal, Cuttack, Puri, Nuapada, Koraput, Jajpur and Keonjhar. The situation remained unclear in Rayagada, Nabarangpur and Sundargarh districts where the BJP show has improved.
Meanwhile, BJD leaders reacted differently to the results of the panchayat poll. Several leaders including Agriculture Minister Pradip Maharathi and party spokesperson Surya Narayan Patro maintained that had Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik campaigned in the polls, the BJD would have bagged more seats. However, others including party spokesperson Amar Prasad Satpathy blamed complacency of the BJD leaders for the results.
The Congress show remained poor as all the heavyweights of the party lost ground to their BJD or BJP rivals. The only saving grace was Jharsuguda represented by Naba Kishore Dash in the Assembly where the party has so far won eight out of nine Zilla Parishad seats and is in a position to form the council.
With the party decimated in several districts, the Central and State leadership has come in for strong criticism from senior leaders and MLAs. While Congress chief whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati has already blamed the Central and State leadership for the poor results, another MLA Jogesh Singh held the State leaders responsible for the sorry state of affairs.