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High-Voltage Campaign Ends

Bhubaneswar: The high-voltage campaign for the by-poll to Padampur Assembly segment ended with a high note at 4 PM on Saturday. The Bargarh District Administration has asked outsiders to leave the place for smooth conduct of the voting.

“As per ECI guidelines, after the end of campaigning period, those who do not belong to the Assembly constituency, should immediately leave the area,” said Bargarh Collector Monisha Banerjee.

She appealed to all the leaders from different political parties to leave the constituency. “We will conduct raids on hotels, lodges and other places. If we find someone violating the norms, action will be taken as per law,” the Collector said.   

The campaigning in Padampur was intense and noisy as the by-poll results could have an impact on Odisha politics. The by-poll in Padampur is considered to be the last election in the state before the next general elections for the Lok Sabha and Odisha Assembly in 2024.

The by-poll result may not change the configuration of the State Assembly but likely to impact the future course of politics in the state.

Though Odisha has witnessed at least five by-polls since 2019, the difference in Padampur was clearly marked as the campaign saw big names hitting the campaign trail.

While BJD President and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik hit the campaign trail for the first time after 2019, at least four Union Ministers, Narendra Singh Tomar, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Dharmendra Pradhan and Bisheswar Tudu campaigned for BJP candidate Pradip Purohit.

While the previous Dhamnagar by-poll in November witnessed bitter fight between the BJD and the BJP over “cash for vote”, the Padampur by-poll campaign was mostly issue based where both the rival parties blamed each other over the crop insurance, input subsidy for farmers, railway project, kendu leaf pluckers problems and above all the demand for a separate Padampur district.

Though farmers’ issues and separate district demand dominated the campaigning, the by-poll also witnessed senior BJP leaders and MPs like Jual Oram and Aparajita Sarangi raising question on BJD candidate Barsha Singh Bariha’s marriage to a non-tribal man of coastal Puri district.

While Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in his three election rallies on December 2 condemned the BJP’s remark on the BJD candidate, Barsha herself also countered the opponents. Barsha was fielded by the BJD in her father Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha seat following his death on October 3 which necessitated the by-poll.

Mr.Patnaik during the campaigning assured the people of Padampur to create a separate district by 2023. The BJD president after a long gap directly attacked the BJP and accused it of imposing 18 per cent GST on Kendu leaf trade on which thousands of Padampur tribals and dalits depend. He also blamed the BJP for “non-implementation” of the railway project.

During the campaigning, the BJD blamed the BJP led central government for “delaying” crop insurance claim payment and also non-implementation of the Bargarh Road-Nuapada Road Via padampur new rail line, which prompted the saffron party to invite Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar and Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, to counter the ruling party’s allegations.

Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan campaigned in Padampur for four days including on Saturday where he urged people not to believe in Patnaik who has been “misleading and telling lies”. Both the BJD and the BJP have accused each other of “shedding crocodile tears” for the poor people of Padampur.

Mr.Pradhan claimed that he is confident that the people of Padampur will support BJP candidate Pradip Purohit as he has come from the Gandhamardan agitation and all along remained with the people whether an MLA or not.

The BJD camp on the other hand is optimistic about Barsha Singh Bariha’s victory keeping in view the huge turnout of women and men at Patnaik’s three public meetings on December 2.

The recent raids by Income Tax and state GST officials on some businessmen (supporters or BJD and BJP) have turned the fight between the two parties ugly as a buzz was created in the area that both the parties are allegedly using their agencies as weapons against each other for political gain.

Congress, somehow, remained little back in the race. The Congress, which in the past has won the Padampur seat several times, has fielded its former MLA Satya Bhusan Sahu. He is the lone candidate among the 10 persons in the fray, who has his own pocket votes rather than party. Last time he had secured about 32,000 votes and it is expected that Sahu will also be a deciding factor.

AICC general secretary and Odisha in-charge A Chella Kumar, OPCC president Sarat Pattnayak, and senior party leaders have campaigned for Sahu.

Congress MLA Santosh Singh Saluja claimed that the people will certainly vote for Congress as they consider BJD and BJP as two sides of the same coin.

Over 2.57 lakh voters will exercise their franchise in 319 polling stations in the constituency. Polling will be held from 7 AM to 4 PM on December 5 and the counting of votes will be on December 8.