Naveen Patnaik-Ruled State Gears Up For Final Phase In BJD’s Coastal Stronghold

By Jun1,2024

New Delhi: Over 99.61 lakh voters will decide the fate of 460 candidates in six Lok Sabha seats and 42 assembly segments in Odisha’s coastal region on Saturday, amid hot and humid weather conditions. Officials indicate a straight fight between the ruling BJD and the opposition BJP in Mayurbhanj, Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Kendrapara, and Jagatsinghpur Lok Sabha seats, with voting scheduled from 7 am to 6 pm.

In this fourth phase of simultaneous polls, 66 candidates are contesting the Lok Sabha seats, while 394 candidates vie for the assembly segments. In the 2019 elections, the BJP won Mayurbhanj and Balasore, while the BJD secured Bhadrak, Jajpur, Kendrapara, and Jagatsinghpur, along with 34 of the 42 assembly segments.

A total of 50.88 lakh men, 48.72 lakh women, and 687 transgender persons are eligible to vote in 10,882 polling booths across Odisha’s coastal region. Given the hot and humid conditions, special arrangements have been made at polling stations to provide essentials to voters, according to Odisha’s Chief Electoral Officer, N B Dhal, news agency PTI reported.

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DGP Arun Kumar Sarangi reported that 36,000 security personnel, including 125 companies of central forces, have been deployed across the six constituencies, as per PTI. About 2,280 polling booths have been identified as critical, necessitating the deployment of central forces to ensure free and fair elections.

Key candidates in this phase include Odisha Assembly Speaker Pramila Mallik, Government Chief Whip Prashant Kumar Mudili, and several Odisha ministers such as Sudam Marndi, Ashwini Patra, Pritiranjan Ghadai, Atanu S Nayak, Pratap Deb, and T K Behera. Additionally, four sitting MPs- Pratap Sarangi (Balasore), Manjula Mandal (Bhadrak), Sarmistha Sethi (Jajpur), and Rajashree Mallick (Jagatsinghpur)—are contesting in their respective seats.

The BJD has changed its candidate in Kendrapara, while the BJP has fielded a new candidate for the Mayurbhanj seat. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Odisha unit president, Anjani Soren, is contesting from both Mayurbhanj and the Saraskana assembly segment.

BJP state president Manmohan Samal is running for the Chandbali assembly constituency in Bhadrak Lok Sabha, and former OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik is contesting from Bhandaripokhari assembly seat.

Soren is seen as a key contender in Mayurbhanj, having secured over 1 lakh votes in the 2019 elections. The BJD has nominated Odisha minister and former JMM leader Sudam Marndi for the Mayurbhanj seat, while the BJP’s candidate is sitting Rairangpur MLA Naba Charan Majhi.

In Balasore, a triangular contest is expected as the Congress has fielded former Union minister Srikant Jena. The BJD’s candidate is Lekhashree Samantsinghar, a former Odisha BJP vice-president, who is up against sitting BJP MP and former Union minister Pratap Sarangi.

In Bhadrak, BJD’s Manju Lata Mandal and BJP’s Avimanyu Sethi are facing off once more. Mandal previously won the seat by a margin of 28,803 votes, and the BJD has retained the Bhadrak seat since 1998. In Kendrapara, BJP has fielded its national vice-president and three-time MP Baijayant Panda, who is competing against BJD’s Anshuman Mohanty.

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Odisha Elections 2024: BJD, BJP’s High Octane Campaigning

The campaign has seen heavyweights like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and BJP president J P Nadda, among others, rallying for votes. PM Modi held rallies in key constituencies including Mayurbhanj, Balasore, and Kendrapara to boost the BJP’s prospects.

Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Vishnu Dev Sai and Bhajan Lal, and former Tripura CM Biplab Deb have also campaigned for party candidates. Union minister Smruti Irani and actor Hema Malini have also campaigned for BJP nominees.

CM Naveen Patnaik and his aide V K Pandian have campaigned for BJD candidates, while Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge addressed a rally in Balasore and Bhadrak Lok Sabha seats. 

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