Padampur bypoll an acid test for Naveen as BJP pulls out all the stops

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Padampur bypoll an acid test for Naveen as BJP pulls out all the stops

  • The by-election to Padampur Assembly constituency in Odisha’s Bargarh district is going to be an acid test for Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) as the BJP is posing a major threat to the party which has been in power since 2000.

Bhubaneswar: The by-election to the Padampur Assembly constituency in Odisha’s Bargarh district is going to be an acid test for Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) as the BJP is posing a major threat to the party which has been in power since 2000.

The bypoll is going to be held on December 5. In the last bypoll held for the Dhamnagar constituency on November 3, the BJD was defeated for the first time since 2009. BJP has won the seat with a good margin of 9,881 votes. So, this bypoll has become crucial for the ruling party in Odisha.

The ruling BJD has nominated Barsha Singh Bariha, daughter of late MLA Bijaya Ranjan Singh Bariha, whose death necessitated the bypoll. The ruling party has nominated Barsha with the aim to gain sympathy votes and also to woo women, voters.

The BJP has nominated Pradip Purohit, who had won the seat in 2014 but lost to BJD’s Bijaya Ranjan Singh Bariha in 2019 with a margin of 5,734 votes.

Both parties have a stronghold in the Assembly segment and leave no stone unturned to win the crucial bypoll, which is likely to have an impact in the 2024 general election.

As the Padampur bypoll comes just a few days after the Dhamnagar by-election, the BJD and BJP are fighting for the MLA seat with utilising their full force.

More than a dozen ministers, several MLAs and leaders from all wings of the regional party have camped in different blocks and panchayats of the constituency for campaigning.

Even Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari stayed away from the Assembly session and, in his place, forest and environment minister Pradip Amat presented a supplementary Budget in the house.

To please different communities of the area, Patnaik has announced several sops, including a Rs 200 crore input subsidy for the drought-hit farmers, a special package for kendu leaf pluckers, a Dharamsala in Puri for Kulta Samaj and a Bhawan in Bhubaneswar in the memory of poet Gangadhar Meher, who hailed from Meher Samaj.

Notably, a good number of voters in the constituency belong to the Kulta and Meher communities and thousands have been involved in the kendu lead trade.

For the first time after the 2019 general election, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik hit the campaign trail in the bypoll to the Padampur MLA seat.

He addressed public rallies physically and virtually at all three blocks, Jharbandh, Padampur and Paikmal, of the constituency. After a long time, Patnaik was seen attacking the Centre raising core issues of the area, including 18 per cent GST on kendu leaf, delay in payment of crop insurance, and non-sanction of rural housing and railway line to Padampur.

The Chief Minister had also assured the public that their demand for Padampur as a separate district will be fulfilled in 2023.

On the other hand, the BJP is also fighting the battle with greater strength. Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar and Ashwini Vaishnaw campaigned on November 27 for the by-election and hit out at the BJD government over the farmers’ issues and the Padampur railway project. Vaishnav had openly challenged the Odisha government to provide land to see railway lines in the area.

Senior BJP leader and Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan have also campaigned for the party candidate Purohit holding roadshows and public rallies at several places across the constituency. During his speeches, Pradhan sharply attacked the state government and especially CM Naveen Patnaik. Many other senior Odisha BJP leaders, including Union Minister Bishweswar Tudu, have also joined the campaigning trail.

The BJP leaders have also raised the issue of mismanagement in paddy procurement, and delay in crop insurance claim settlement and input subsidy payment for the drought-hit farmers, separate district tags for Padampur, railway project, etc to attack the BJD.

The recent raids by Income Tax and state GST officials on some businessmen (supporters of BJD and BJP) have turned the fight between the two parties ugly as a buzz was created in the area that both the parties are allegedly using their agencies as weapons against each other for political gain. The Congress, somehow, remained a little back in the race.

In Dhamnagar, BJD rebel candidate Rajendra Das played a significant role in the defeat of the ruling party. Following the result, a senior BJD leader Sanjay Das Burma opened up his mouth in an open forum. If the BJD wins the bypoll, it will be able to put a break on the rebel leaders, said a political observer.

“The BJD has tasted defeat in a bypoll for the first time since 2009. BJP was able to stop the winning spree of the BJD. So, if the BJD will lose the Padampur bypoll, it will face a very strong descent and it may face the consequences in 2024,” said political observer Rabi Das.

On the other hand, if the BJD wins the bypoll, it will continue to remain as strong as it was, he said.

“The BJP is also utilising its full force to woo the voters of one of most backward constituencies of Odisha. If the saffron party wins the poll, it will change the political narrative in the state. Now all eyes are on the December 8 result,” added Das.


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