Odisha’s Second Phase Polls Will Seal Fate of Several Political Bigwigs

The ministers were told to submit their report cards with the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) by the seventh of every month.

Bhubaneswar: The fortunes of several political heavyweights in Odisha, including incumbent Chief Minister and influential satrap Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), will be sealed in the second phase of simultaneous elections in the state on Thursday.

Five of the eastern state’s 21 Lok Sabha seats and 35 of the 147 Assembly constituenices are going to the polls for which campaigning ended on Tuesday evening.

Results of the second phase will decide the fate of five state ministers, including the CM, Assembly Speaker Pradeep Kumar Amat of BJD, Union minister and three-term MP Jual Oram of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra and BJP legislative party leader KV Singh Deo, among others.

Patnaik, who is seeking a re-election for the fifth consecutive term, is contesting from two Assembly seats for the first time.

Apart from Hinjli, from where the 72-year-old leader has been elected to the Assembly four times in a row since 2000, Patnaik is also contesting from Bijepur under the Bargarh Lok Sabha constituency. Hinjli falls under Aska parliamentary constituency in Patnaik’s home district of Ganjam.

The five Lok Sabha seats for which votes would be cast on Thursday are Sundergarh, Aska, Bargarh, Bolangir and Kandhamal.

In the last general election in 2014, Sundergarh was the only seat the BJP had managed to win in the state. The other 20 Lok Sabha seats were won handsomely by the ruling BJD.

Union tribal affairs minister and four-term MP Jual Oram, who won the Sundergarh seat in 2014, is pitted against Sunita Biswal of the BJD and George Tirkey from the Congress. Biswal is the daughter of former chief minister Hemananda Biswal of the Congress.

By all accounts, Thursday is going to be a tough day for the ruling BJD and Patnaik, who is the son of iconic Odia politician and former chief minister Biju Patnaik.

Blistering campaigns by the BJP, led from the front by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party’s national president Amit Shah, and also a resurgent Congress have brought to question Patnaik’s ability to turn anti-incumbency on its head like in the past elections.

The saffron party seemed upbeat about wresting Odisha from the BJD’s grip this time, after adecade-long effort. Spirits in the BJD camp are equally high as the regional party hopes to cash in on Patnaik’s clean image and a slew of welfare schemes his government has rolled out a few months before the polls.