BHUBANESWAR/BARGARH : The victory margin of the ruling BJD in the by-poll to the Bijepur Assembly seat may have been unprecedented, but the polling pattern was on the expected lines. The BJP finished a distant second and the Congress which held the constituency for three consecutive terms not long ago, was on the verge of extinction.
However, what has come as unexpected from the by-election result is the drop in the BJP votes from an area which is considered to be the party’s stronghold. Two Union ministers, Dharmendra Pradhan and Pratap Sarangi, besides a number of senior leaders of the BJP had campaigned for the party candidate. But, the votes polled by the BJP candidate Sanat Kumar Gartia dropped by 15,515.
On the other hand, the winning spree of the BJD continued. Party candidate Rita Sahu not only won by a convincing margin, but also created an all time record in the history of Assembly elections in Odisha by trouncing her nearest BJP rival Sanat Kumar Gartia by a margin of 97,990 votes. She surpassed the margin of victory and votes polled by Chief Minister and party supremo Naveen Patnaik from the same constituency in the 2019 Assembly election.
While Rita secured 1,35,957 votes, Gartia got 37,967 votes and Congress candidate Dillip Kumar Panda managed to get only 5,873 votes. Naveen had defeated Gartia by a margin of 57,122 votes in the 2019 polls. While Naveen secured 1,10,604 votes, Sanat got 53,482 and Ripunath Seth of Congress polled 14,344 votes.
Earlier, Rita had won the by-election from the constituency in February 2018 by defeating nearest BJP rival Ashok Panigrahi by a margin of 41,933 votes. While Rita secured 1,02,871 votes, Ashok got 60,938 votes and Pranaya Sahu of Congress 10,274 votes.The by-poll has, however, thrown up several questions, mainly about the BJP’s game plan in Odisha where its performance in the Assembly elections has always been less than the party’s expectations. This has led Congress to allege a tacit understanding between the BJD and the BJP. “The aggressiveness of the BJP found during the 2019 General Elections was missing in Bijepur. It was a friendly match between the two parties,” president of the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) Niranjan Patnaik told mediapersons.
BJD Rajya Sabha member Prasanna Acharya, however, dismissed Congress allegation about a tacit understanding between BJD and BJP. “BJD won because of the popularity of the Chief Minister, pro-people measures initiated by the State Government and the party’s organisational network,” he said.
BJP general secretary Golak Mohapatra also maintained that BJD won because of its money and muscle power. The by-poll was necessitated after Naveen vacated Bijepur seat by retaining Hinjili seat. With the victory of Rita, BJD managed to grab Bijepur three times in a row within a span of around 20 months.
Talking to mediapersons, Rita said she was confident of her victory and hat-trick win for BJD. Thanking the people of Bijepur and Naveen for reposing faith in her, she said the Chief Minister had worked hard during the campaign and people have reposed their faith in him.
Rita rewrites poll victory record
Bhubaneswar: BJD candidate Rita Sahu surpassed the record of BJP veteran Biswa Bhusan Harichandan by winning with a margin of 97,990 votes in the by-election to the Bijepur Assembly constituency. She secured 1,35,957 votes while her nearest BJP candidate Sanat Kumar Gartia got 37,967 votes. The record of highest margin was held by Harichandan who had defeated his Congress rival Jagannath Mohapatra by 94,555 votes in 2000 elections from Bhubaneswar Assembly seat. While Harichandan had polled 117150 votes, Mohapatra got 22595 votes. BJD and BJP were alliance partners in 2000 Assembly election. BJD’s Soumya Ranjan Patnaik now holds the record of third highest victory margin in the history of Assembly election in Odisha.