Odisha goes to polls to elect 6 Lok Sabha & 42 Assembly candidates

Bhubaneswar, May 31 (UNI) The fate of 460 candidates will be sealed as Odisha goes to the polls in the final phase on Saturday to elect six Lok Sabha members and 42 legislators.

The electoral fortunes of 15 Lok Sabha members and 105 MLAs have already been sealed in the EVMs during the polling in the last three phases held in the state on May 13, 20, and 25.

A total of 99,55,556 voters from eight districts, mostly from Coastal Odisha, including 48,69,331 females, will exercise their franchise in 10,882 polling booths. Twenty percent of these booths are declared critical, and another 20 percent are model booths, all amidst tight security cover, with the deployment of 126 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).

Odisha DGP Arun Saranghi said about 36,000 Odisha Armed Police Forces have been deployed to maintain law and order in this phase of the election. Additionally, 843 mobile units and 255 flying squads have also been deployed to ensure a free and fair election. He said the CAPF will be deployed in all the critical booths.

The six Lok Sabha constituencies going to the polls are Mayurbhanj (ST), Bhadrak, Jajpur, and Jagatsinghpur, all SC seats, besides Balasore and Kendrapara, both general seats. Along with these six Lok Sabha seats, polling will be held in 42 Assembly seats falling under these parliamentary constituencies.

In the 2019 elections, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) had a clean sweep, winning four of the six Lok Sabha seats and 34 of the 42 Assembly seats, while the opposition BJP bagged two Lok Sabha and eight Assembly seats.

However, political observers said this time it would be a difficult task for the ruling BJD to retain its supremacy in the wake of a high-voltage and aggressive campaign launched by the BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and Party President J.P. Nadda, besides a host of central leaders including the Chief Ministers of Assam and Uttar Pradesh.

The three major political parties – BJD, BJP, and the Congress – have fielded their candidates in all 42 Assembly seats. The BJP has fielded its candidates in 31 Assembly seats. In six Lok Sabha seats, both the BJD and the BJP have fielded their candidates in all six seats, while the Congress has put up candidates in five Lok Sabha seats, leaving the Mayurbhanj (ST) seat for the JMM.

Although all the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats will witness a multi-corner contest, the real battle for the ballots will be mostly confined to the ruling BJD and BJP, while the Congress will give a tough fight in Balasore Lok Sabha and a couple of Assembly seats.

The ruling BJD has re-nominated its sitting MPs in Jajpur, Bhadrak, and Jagatsinghpur, all SC parliamentary seats, and dropped its sitting MP Anubhav Mohanty in Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat, where the party has fielded turncoat Anshuman Mohanty, a former Congress MLA who quit the party and joined the BJD. BJP’s National Vice President and former MP Baijayant Panda, who won the seat as a BJD candidate twice in the past in the 15th and 16th Lok Sabha elections, will try his luck this time as a BJP candidate. Panda lost the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to Anubhav Mohanty of BJD, who has since resigned from the BJD and joined the BJP.

The BJP, on the other hand, has dropped its sitting MP from Mayurbhanj, Union Minister for Tribal Welfare and Jal Shakti Bishweswar Tudu. The party has re-nominated former Union Minister Pratap Sarangi in Balasore Lok Sabha seat where former Union Minister Srikant Jena is contesting on a Congress ticket, while the BJD has fielded BJP turncoat Lekhashree Samant Singhar in the seat.

The heavyweights whose electoral fortunes will be decided in Saturday’s polling in the Assembly elections are BJP Odisha unit President Manmohan Samal (Chandbali), Odisha Assembly Speaker Pramila Mallik (Binjharpur), and four Ministers of the Naveen Patnaik government – Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak (Mahakalpada), Pratap Dev (Aul), Pritiranjan Gharai (Sukinda), and Tusharkanti Behera (Kakatpur). Other prominent figures in the fray are former Odisha Congress President Niranjan Pattnaik (Bhandaripokhari), former BJD Minister and Congress turncoat Ganeshwar Behera (Kendrapara-SC), veteran BJD leader and former Minister Prafulla Samal (Bhadrak), and Government Chief Whip Prashant Muduli (Jagatsinghpur).

This phase of the campaign in Odisha was marked by acrimonious exchanges between the ruling BJD and the Opposition BJP. BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik accompanied by party leader V K Pandian, promised free electricity , extension of BSKY health card for all sections of people and pension to Mission Shakti women members to woo the voters.

The BJP backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Home Minister Amit Shah besides, a host of central leaders including UP Chief Minister Yogi and Assam Chief Minister Himant Biswa Sarma, mounted an attack on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for pushing the state to 50 years back in his 24 years of rule and outsourcing the state’s administration to a coterie of bureaucrats.

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