The campaign for the Dhamnagar Assembly by-election to be held on November 3 has formally begun and the presence of rebel BJD candidate Rajendra Das as an independent has added to the sway.
Mr Das, a former MLA from the region, who was denied a BJD ticket at the last minute, is a serious threat to the official candidate of the BJD, Abanti Das. The other two parties that have fielded candidates are the opposition BJP and the Congress.
While leaders of the three political parties have already taken over all hotels and guest houses in the district headquarters town of Bhadrak, which is barely 10 km from the rural areas of Dhamnagar, Mr. Das has it to campaign for them. There is no one from outside.
Mr Das, who was allotted the symbol of a floating boat and a sailor, is still hopeful that he will win the election battle with the blessings of the local people.
Interestingly, BJD, BJP and Congress have announced the names of prominent leaders including Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Union and State Ministers. The list of Mr. Das has people from Dhamnagar constituency.
Sources in the Election Office said that the list of campaigners submitted by them to the Election Commission includes father-mother, uncle-aunt, poor daily wage earners, farmers, siblings and general public.
Das said, “I don’t need others’ campaign. People of Dhamnagar, who are voters, will campaign for me. No minister comes here to cast votes.”
He lost the 2019 state assembly elections to BC Sethi of the BJP by a margin of 4,625 votes. Due to the death of BC Sethi on 19 September, a by-election had to be held in Dhamnagar.
Although he was under tremendous pressure from the BJD to withdraw from the election, Mr. Das remained adamant on contesting from this seat. His entry into the electoral arena is a major headache for the ruling BJD candidate Abanti Das. She became the president of Tihiri block of the district with the help and support of Rajendra Das.
Campaigning for the bypoll began on Monday evening and Abanti Das along with party MLAs and supporters performed a puja at the Kali temple in Bhadrak. Congress candidate Baba Harekrishna Sethi started campaigning from Asurali in Dhamnagar, while BJP candidate Suryavanshi Suraj, son of BC Sethi, started campaigning from door to door.
The saffron party hopes that Sooraj, who was the first to file his nomination, will win on the basis of sympathy votes. State BJP general secretary Prithviraj Harichandan told reporters, “The fight will be mainly between the BJP and Rajendra Das. The BJD will slip to the third spot.”
Congress MP Saptagiri Ulaka, on the other hand, said that the party candidate is likely to win as the BJD’s votes are now divided on account of its rebel candidate. Ulaka said on the other hand, the people of Dhamnagar would give a “befitting reply” to the BJP for the failure of the Modi government to check the rise in prices of essential commodities.
BJD leader Amar Prasad Satpathy, however, claimed that Rajendra Das’s candidature would hardly have any bearing on the regional party’s electoral prospects. “He (Rajendra Das) may get some votes while BJD will get a massive victory.
Odisha Chief Electoral Officer SK Lohani said six candidates had filed nominations for the bypolls. He said that the nomination of a candidate was canceled during the investigation.
A day after the last date for withdrawal of nomination papers on Monday, five candidates are now in the fray. They were Rajendra Das (Independent), Abni Das (BJD), Suryavanshi Suraj (BJP), Baba Harekrishna Sethi (Congress) and Pavitra Mohan Das (India).
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)