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Naveen Patnaik may contest from western Odisha to stop BJP, Congress

Odisha chief minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik is “seriously considering” a proposal to contest the assembly polls from a seat in the western part of the state amid reports of mounting anti-incumbency and opposition BJP and Congress planning a tough fight there.

“The leaders of western Odisha, the farmers, the women and the students have requested me to stand from western Odisha. I am considering it very seriously,” Patnaik told reporters here on Sunday. The chief minister did not specify any particular assembly seat, but party sources indicated that he may contest from Bijepur in Bargarh district in western Odisha where his party candidate had defeated BJP in a high-voltage contest in assembly bypoll last year.

Legislative assembly elections in Odisha are scheduled to be held concurrently with Lok Sabha elections in four phases – April 11, 18, 23 and 29.

Patnaik, 73, has been contesting from Hinjilicut assembly constituency under Aska Lok Sabha seat in Ganjam district since 2000 when he was first elected as chief minister.

But faced with a resurgent BJP in western Odisha districts of Sambalpur, Bargarh, Bolangir and Kalahandi in the aftermath of panahcyat polls in 2017, Patnaik now seems to have set his sights on western Odisha to boost his party.

In 2017 panchayat polls, BJD lost to BJP in zilla parishads of these districts setting off alarm bells in the party. Since then Patnaik has taken several steps for western Odisha and toured the region multiple times.

Also read: Lok Sabha elections 2019: BJD to field women in 33% Odisha seats, says CM Naveen Patnaik

Political analysts said Patnaik’s decision to contest from western Odisha was a prudent one. “BJP is looking for a rich haul of Lok Sabha seats in western Odisha. The Congress is also trying to wean away BJD’s voters in Assembly seats. Apart from boosting the morale of the party workers, the sheer presence of the CM in the electoral battle of western Odisha would give the party a decisive edge,” said Satya Prakash Das, political science professor of Sambalpur University.

Despite Patnaik himself saying that he was seriously considering contesting from western Odisha, BJD sources, however, say the chief minister would continue to contest from Hinjilicut where his margin of victory has been increasing with every election. His popularity in Hinjilicut is so formidable that in 2014 all his opponents including those from Congress and BJP forfeited their security deposits.

First Published:
Mar 17, 2019 17:48 IST

Source: HindustanTimes