The Bijepur battle was seen as a direct tussle between Pradhan, the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for 2019 polls, and Patnaik.
Bhubaneswar: The outcome of Bijepur bypoll in Odisha has surprised one and all, including the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), which did not hope even in its wildest dreams to win by a huge margin of 41,933 votes over its rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Bijepur battle, which came in the backdrop of a number of corruption allegations levelled against the ruling BJD leadership, will have a far-reaching impact in the state politics, political analysts maintain.
As the bypoll came a few months before the crucial 2019 Assembly polls, it was an heaven sent opportunity for the BJD, the BJP and the Congress to prove their current net brand value and political worth to the public. Each of these parties tried their best to win the race.
Since 2004, Bijepur seat was represented by Subal Sahu. He had won the seat in 2004, 2009 and 2014 Assembly polls, defying the massive chief minister Naveen Patnaik wave sweeping across the state. Sahu died on August 22, 2017 due to cancer. When the Congress was planning to field Subal Sahu’s widow Rita Sahu from the seat ostensibly to retain it basing on the sympathy wave, Mr Patnaik, known for his political masterstrokes, once again played the trump card. He stunned the Congress camp by enrolling Rita Sahu into the BJD.
This worked wonders and the BJD registered a thumping victory. Good election management by the young BJD team ensured the transfer of almost all Congress votes in favour of the BJD. Mr Patnaik had camped for two days in Bijepur to boost the morale of the party workers.
In the previous 2014 Assembly elections, the Congress candidate had got more than 53,290 votes, which reduced to 10,274 votes.
Veteran Congress leader Suresh Kumar Routray said the massive transfer of Congress votes to the BJD was thanks to sabotage by some of the senior leaders of the party.
Congress candidate Pranaya Sahu had forfeited his deposit. Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Prasad Harichandan resigned owning moral responsibility for the party’s poor show.
For the BJP, it was a do-or-die battle as the party wanted to carry forward from here to achieve the 120-plus mission set by its president Amit Shah.
BJP’s poster boy and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan was leading an aggressive campaign for the party nominee Ashok Panigrahi.
While in the rural elections held in February 2017, the BJP had polled around 91,000 votes in the constituency, it got only 60,938 votes this time.
The Bijepur battle was seen as a direct tussle between Mr Pradhan, the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for 2019 polls, and Mr Patnaik. The BJD victory, as a section of analysts pointed out, has dealt a body blow to Mr Pradhan forcing him to the drawing board to redraft his strategies to stage a comeback.“The BJP had raised issues of corruption, nepotism and deterioration of law and order in the state during the campaign trail, but nothing seemed to have touched swayed a majority of voters,” said Prasanna Mohanty, a senior political commentator.