BJD-BJP bonhomie turns Odisha by-poll interesting

Narendra Modi and Naveen Patnaik (PTI File Photo)

The fresh bonhomie between Biju Janata Dal(BJD), the ruling party in Odisha, and the BJP has turned the upcoming by-poll for Patkura Assembly constituency interesting. Both the former allies as well as the Congress, the third major player in the state politics, have fielded their candidates paving the way for a triangular contest in the July 20 by-poll.

The by-poll was scheduled to be held on April 29, was adjourned due to the death of sitting BJD MLA and party nominee Bed Prakash Agarwal. Then May 19 was fixed as the next date of polling, but it was adjourned again in the aftermath of Cyclone Fani that hit the State on May 3.

The Naveen Patnaik-led regional outfit has chosen Agarwal’s wife Sabitri Agarwal as its candidate. The Patkura by-poll is crucial and prestigious for the BJD because of the BJP nominee Bijoy Mohapatra, a long time bete noire of regional outfit chief Patnaik.

A founder member of BJD, Mohapatra was sacked from the party on the eve of the 2000 assembly elections, following his differences with Patnaik. Since then, the latter and his party have been successful in preventing the rebel leader’s numerous attempts to enter the state assembly.

Mohapatra, a former minister and a close associate of Patnaik’s father, late Biju Patnaik had represented Patkura in coastal Kendrapara district, the senior Patnaik’s pocket borough for 20 long years between 1980 and 2000. The veteran leader will be creating history if he wins this time, as he will be defeating the party created in the name of Biju Patnaik and beating the popularity of Naveen Patnaik.

The regional outfit has left no stone unturned to ensure victory for the party nominee. Agarwal with half a dozen ministers and senior legislators is already campaigning in the coastal constituency.

The BJD-BJP fresh friendly relationship, nevertheless, has provided the Congress an opportunity to lambast both the parties. “A ‘fixed’ cricket match is going on in Patkura between the BJD and the BJP. And Bijoy Mohapatra has been made a sacrificial goat”, said senior Congress legislator Tara Prasad Bahinipati.

Both the parties have denied the charge and said they were fighting the by-poll in their own. The Congress nominee in the fray is Jayant Mohanty, a local leader.

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