Bijepur by-poll: Odisha’s ruling BJD wins prestige battle, BJP fails to bloom

Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) scored a landslide victory in the by-poll to the Bijepur Assembly Constituency while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended up at the second position and the Congress at the third spot.

In a fiercely contested election, BJD candidate Rita Sahu emerged victorious with a magnanimous margin of 41933 votes over her nearest rival and BJP candidate Ashok Panigrahi.

Rita Sahu polled 102871 votes of a total 181716 ballots casted in favour of as many as 13 candidates in the fray. While Ashok Panigrahi got a total of 60938 votes, Congress candidate Pranaya Sahu managed to garner 10274 votes only, said Returning Officer Tapiram Majhi.

The BJD won a staggering 56 per cent of the polled votes, while the BJP won 33.53 per cent and the Congress a mere 5.65 per cent, said Majhi.

Pranaya Sahu also lost his security deposit as he failed to poll 1/6th of the total votes.

The vote counting process concluded after 21 rounds with Rita Sahu going way ahead of Ashok Panigrahi in the initial rounds and the lead of same magnitude remaining intact throughout.

Here’s detail of round-wise figures:

Reacting over the win, Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik thanked the voters and said that a victory by a margin of more than 40000 votes will have impact on future elections.

“Humbled by love & trust of the people of #Bijepur for giving @bjd_Odisha a massive victory. BJD lives in the hearts of the people of #Odisha. Our people are peace loving and have rejected the politics of hatred and violence,” Patnaik tweeted.

“I thank each and every BJD worker who has worked hard for this. We will continue our efforts to build a prosperous and empowered Odisha. Jai Jagannath,” he added.

“The victory is a reflection of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s popularity and good works done by my late husband Subal Sahu,” said Rita Sahu.

BJP legislature party leader K.V. Singh Deo conceded the defeat. “We need to do our introspection over the defeat in the Bijepur bypoll and move forward,” said Singh Deo.

“The Congress votes got diverted towards the BJD. We were at the third position during the 2014 general elections. However, we have secured the second position this time. Besides, the amount of votes in our support has increased by a huge margin as compared to the previous polls. We will definitely register victory in the 2019 general elections,” said defeated candidate  Ashok Panigrahi.

“The BJD had distributed black money among the voters to influence them,” he alleged.

Celebrations erupted at the BJD party headquarters here. Party workers were seen dancing and bursting firecrackers following the victory of their candidate. Similar scenes were also witnessed at the BJD’s Bijepur office.

On the other hand, BJP and Congress offices wore a deserted look.

BJP office

BJD leaders and workers were also seen making a beeline to Naveen Nivas, Naveen Patnaik’s residence here, to congratulate the conch party chief.

Notably, the by-election was held on February 24 in which around 82 per cent of the voters had exercised their franchise. It was necessitated following the death of Congress MLA and Rita Sahu’s husband Subal Sahu in August, 2017. Rita was inducted into BJD in September 23, last year.

Though there were 13 candidates in the fray for the assembly seat, the high voltage fight was primarily seen as a triangular contest between BJD, BJP and Congress.

Campaigning reached fever high in this assembly segment with the biggies of BJD and BJP camping in the area. The by-election campaigning also saw Union ministers and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik seeking votes in favour of their candidates.

During this phase, sporadic violence provided fodder to politicking with shoe hurling on Naveen Patnaik at a rally and attack on Labour Minister Sushant Singh’s brother pitching the BJD against the saffron party. Amid mudslinging and trading charges of the ruling party channelizing its administrative resources to its advantage, the electorates cast their franchise on February 24.

The Bijepur by-election was a prestige battle for the BJD and BJP as the two adversaries were claiming victory which is viewed as setting the tone for the twin elections due in state early next year.

A buoyant BJP was hoping to sail on the surge in three-tier Panchayat polls held in state, exactly around this time last year. The voters’ verdict has come as a blow to the BJP as well as Congress in many ways than one.

It would be a major loss of face for Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan who campaigned extensively and highlighted the failures of the ruling party vociferously.

The results proved that the popularity of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik remains intact despite an aggressive campaign by the BJP, which failed to capitalise on its advantages from the panchayat polls. The BJP had swept the Zilla Parishad polls in Bargarh district in 2017.

On the other hand, the Congress party, which won the assembly seat the last three times, was completely decimated in the by-election. For Congress which had read the writing on the wall before the announcement of the results, the verdict calls for some serious introspection given it was a grand old party’s bastion.

Secondly, its rise in vote share in recently-concluded elections across the country. The elevation of Rahul Gandhi infused long-awaited vigour into the cadre which incidentally resulted in consolidation its vote bank to some extent. With it having no impact in Odisha, call for impending change in OPCC guard appears imminent.

Suresh Routray, senior Congress leader and father-in-law of PCC chief Prasad Harichandan, had lashed out at party leaders for the by-poll defeat before even the result was out, uncovering the fissures within the party wide open. Call for Prasad’s ouster will only get shriller.

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