Bhubaneswar, July 17 (LocalWire): A galaxy of kurta-payjama clad leaders, vehicles whizzing past the dusty streets with blaring microphone, generous flow of cash and liquor, politicians promising the moon and panacea-for-all-ills to voters; the poll-bound Patkura is replete with all ingredients of the ‘festival of democracy’.
However, for 2.25 lakh electors in this largely underdeveloped assembly constituency, the by-poll has come with more than what they would have dreamt of as a ‘different’ election, with two national parties – BJP and Congress – and the ruling BJD of Odisha leaving no stone unturned to get the tide in their favour.
For the three major players, Patkura by-poll has now become a battle of utmost prestige.
As the trendy and air-conditioned SUVs carrying the ‘seasonal’ leaders zoom past the dusty lanes and bylanes of this predominantly rural constituency, people have begun to believe that each one of them is now being mapped individually as every vote counts in the intriguing July 20 poll battle.
Everybody following Odisha politics and the election in Patkura is well aware of the fact the political future of BJP candidate and four-time MLA Bijoy Mohapatra, who has been on a long losing streak since 2000, is at stake.
Even as BJD has embarked on a high-voltage campaign trail with Patkura turning into temporary homes of many leaders from the regional party’s right from ministers, MLAs and panchayat level leaders, it is being believed that regional party’s satrap Naveen Patnaik is locked in a proxy poll battle.
Patnaik is scheduled to join the party campaign tomorrow and embark on whistle-stop road shows across the constituency.
The voters are completely confused and perplexed as poll-bound Patkura is witnessing the costliest election since it was carved out as an assembly seat in the fifties.
The majority of voters have made up their minds whom to vote. “The campaign, the deluge of cash and liquor will have no bearing on the outcome,” Rajib Lochan Hota, a voter from Bedari village, said.
A message has gone across the state that parties are buying votes in Patkura.
“People here are upset as many from outside are inquiring about money-bag-politics.
It really hurts one and all here. Patkura people are not purchasable commodities. People will exercise their franchise as per their conscience.
No inducement will impact the voting pattern,” he quipped.
However, unlike Hota other voters seem to be divided in their choice of their future MLA.
“BJD runs the government. Thus, electing its candidate will be better as development work will be faster under government patronage,” a voter from Derabish said on condition of anonymity.
“Both BJD and BJP have joined hands after the recently-concluded twin polls. Both the parties are playing opportunistic politics. They should be taught a lesson,” another voter from Chatta village said, adding that he will vote for Congress this time.
“We will vote for Bijoy Mohapatra. The party he is representing carries a meaning to us.
He is a political stalwart with pan-Odisha presence.
As an MLA, he will better represent the constituency and will raise burning issues in the assembly much more than his rival candidates could do.
Bijoy Babu has become a perfect choice for the voters.
He has been on a losing streak, but will emerge victorious this time,” a voter from village Juna under Marshaghai block said.
If local political observers are to be believed, there will be a direct contest between the BJD and BJP, while the Congress will be pushed to a distant third.
It appears most likely that the votes will be polarized.
The BJD is banking on its star campaigner Patnaik to emerge the winner, its main plank being Naveen Patnaik’s leadership, and development agenda. The party has laid additional focus to garner women’s votes amid palpable and growing wave in favour of Mohapatra.
On the other hand, Mohapatra is largely fighting the electoral battle on his personal charisma.
While the BJP lacks organizational base in the region, the support base that Mohapatra has managed to keep intact in the lean phase of his political career in the constituency may act in his favour.
The disgruntled elements in BJD are likely to extend covert support to Mohapatra.
It appears most likely that BJD might eat into congress vote bank to brighten poll prospects, observers say.
Polling in Patkura Assembly seat which will be held on July 20 was initially scheduled on April 29, but it could not be held because of the death of BJD candidate Bed Prakash Agarwal on April 20.
The Election Commission of India had fixed May 19 as the new date for the polls in Patkura.
However, it was further postponed following cyclone Fani.