Keen contest for last phase of polls in Orissa (Poll curtainraiser - Orissa)

April 22nd, 2009 - 10:01 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bhubaneswar, April 22 (IANS) The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is fighting hard to retain its hold on Orissa and improve its bargaining position in national politics in the second and last phase of polling in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in the state Thursday.
With the break-up of the BJD’s 11-year alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) most seats are seeing keen triangular fights among the BJD, the BJP and the Congress.

An electorate of more than 14.5 million, including about seven million women, will decide the fate of 84 candidates contesting 11 Lok Sabha seats in the second phase and 688 assembly candidates, officials said.

At least 16,572 booths in 11 districts have been set up and security arrangements have been made to make the polling peaceful, a senior state police official told IANS.

The districts of Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal, Keonjhar and Jajpur are Maoist-affected and extra care has been taken there, the official added.

Prominent among the BJP candidates contesting the Lok Sabha elections in the second phase are M.A. Kharabela Swain (Balasore), Ananta Nayak (Keonjhar) and Braja Kishore Tripathy (Puri). Tripathy had resigned from the BJD on being denied the ticket and joined the BJP, which fielded him from Puri.

From the Congress, former central minister Srikanta Jena is contesting from Balasore, and Ranjib Biswal from Kendrapada. Among the key BJD candidates are industrialist- turned Rajya Sabha member Baijayant Jay Panda (Kendrapada), Tathagat Satpathy (Dhenkanal) and Pinaki Mishra (Puri).

Prominent candidates contesting the assembly elections are the BJP’s Biswa Bhusan Harichandan from Bhubaneswar, the BJD’s Damodar Rout from Paradeep and the Congress’ Saumya Ranjan Patnaik from Khandpada.

In its first election after snapping ties with the BJP, the BJD led by Chief minister Naveen Patnaik is focussing on the second phase, as most of the areas going to the polls Thursday are considered BJD strongholds.

For the first time in his 12-year-old political career, Naveen Patnaik is addressing up to 14 campaign rallies a day.

Realising his clean image was not enough to motivate voters, he has also begun to play the “Biju card” to strike an emotional chord with the electorate. Naveen’s father Biju Patnaik dominated Orissa politics for decades.

“Vote for BJD again if you want to fulfil the dreams of late Biju Patnaik,” Naveen says at various public meetings, citing the initiatives his father had taken.

Besides highlighting his government’s achievements, the chief minister is also asking the people to vote for his party since regional parties will play a vital role at the Centre after the elections.

On the other hand, the BJP and the Congress too are hopeful of coming to power in the state as they feel there is an anti-incumbency wave. They are highlighting the failures of the Patnaik government on various fronts.

Polling in 10 of Orissa’s 21 Lok Sabha and 70 of 147 assembly constituencies was held in the first phase April 16, with a voter turnout of over 65 percent.

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