LokSabha 2019: High voltage campaigning for first phase election ends

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Curtains were drawn on the high voltage electioneering on Tuesday evening for Odisha's four Lok Sabha and 28 Assembly seats, including several naxal-hit areas, where polling is slated to be held in the first phase on April 11.

Bhubaneswar: Curtains were drawn on the high voltage electioneering on Tuesday evening for Odisha's four Lok Sabha and 28 Assembly seats, including several naxal-hit areas, where polling is slated to be held in the first phase on April 11.

A galaxy of high profile leaders of all major political parties including BJP, Congress and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) undertook whirlwind tours of the constituencies, mostly in south Odisha, to bolster the prospects of their candidates at the hustings.

Spearheading the campaign for BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah crisscrossed the poll-bound segments addressing a host of election rallies in a bid to arm the saffron party with extra strength.

Balloting in Kalahandi, Nabarangapur, Berhampur and Koraput Lok Sabha seats and 28 Assembly segments coming under these four parliamentary constituencies will be held on April 11.

A battery of other leaders also hit the campaign trail to give steam to the BJP campaign. They included Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and many Union Ministers.

Virtually camping in the state was Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who hails from Odisha, as BJP made all out efforts to put up a formidable challenge to the BJD, which has been in power since 2000.

The Congress campaign, on the other hand, was led single-handedly by party president Rahul Gandhi who attended poll rallies in places like Koraput and Bhawanipatna besides holding special interactions with women and others. Gandhi was joined by senior leaders including Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhepesh Baghel and Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik.

For the ruling BJD, party president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, seeking a fifth term this time, geared up and undertook extensive tours of the poll-bound areas.

Besides trading charges, the national parties like Congress and BJP hit out at the BJD government in the state accusing it of having failed to ensure development in the state despite being in power for 19 years. The BJD, on its part, accused both BJP and Congress of meting out step-motherly approach towards Odisha.

Candidates left no stone unturned to woo voters by holding large rallies, street corner meetings and road shows.

As the cacophony of electioneering fell silent at 5 pm, the candidates and their supporters readied for engaging in inter-personal canvassing.

The first phase polling will decide the electoral fate of 26 candidates, including many heavyweights, who are in the fray in four Lok Sabha seats, while there are 191 candidates in 28 Assembly seats. The state has 21 Lok Sabha and 147 Asssembly seats.

Trying his luck at the hustings is Congress stalwart and former Union Minister Bhakta Charan Das who is crossing swords with BJP state unit president Basant Panda and BJD heavyweight and former state minister Pushpendra Singhdeo in Kalahandi Lok Sabha constituency.

Similarly, former Union Minister Chandra Sekhar Sahu is in the fray from Berhampur Lok Sabha seat where BJP has fielded its state unit general secretary Bhrugu Baxipatra.

State minister Ramesh Majhi is locking horns as a BJD nominee with state Congress working president and former MP Pradip Majhi in tribal dominated Nabarangpur Lok Sabha seat.

Assembly election will witness high profile contest in several seats in the first phase with state minister S N Patro contesting from Digapahandi, Congress chief whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati from Jeypore and former minister Pradeep Panigrahi from Gopalpur.

The Election Commission, security forces including state Police and other officials have taken necessary steps to ensure free, fair and peaceful conduct of elections, an official said.

B K Sharma, who is DGP In-charge, said police has geared up to face challenges in to ensure peaceful conduct of elections in Maoist-affected areas many of which go to polls in the first phase.

Similarly, officials in-charge of polling duty along with security personnel have been mobilised to make arrangements for the polls in these constituencies.

More than 60 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the first phase of polling to be held in 7,233 booths, the official said.

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