16 November 2011


By: BASANT RATH, Editor-in-Chief.
Published in The Pioneer/The statesman/orissabarta/orissadiary. Bhubaneswar, Dated: 15 Nov. 2011

Poised for BJD-BJP-Cong triangular contest
The by-election will be a test for Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's popularity in the tribal heartland with the State Government launching a series of welfare programmes for the STs. 
The by-elections for the Umerkote Assembly seat would be a three-cornered contest among the major political parties, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the BJP and the Congress. After the scrutiny of nomination papers on Monday, out of the six candidates only three are left in the fray for the by-poll on November 30. Among the six candidates, two nominations of Dhanuram Gond (Independent) and Buti Bhatra belonging of of Kaling National Front were rejected, while Sunadhar Paklu, candidate of the Republican Party of India withdraw his papers.
The by-election will be a test for Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s popularity in the tribal heartland with the State Government launching a series of welfare programmes for the STs. The BJD has deployed Ministers Surjya Narayan Patro, Ramesh Majhi and Bikram Keshari Arukh, Koraput MP Jayaram Pangi, MLAs Rabi Narayan Nanda and Arabinda Dhali for campaigning.
Besides, Nabarangpur Municipal Chairman Prahalad Tripathy, Umerkote NAC Chairman Jhadeswar Mohanty and district BJD president Jayadev Parida are among the leading campaigners for party nominee Subash Gond’s victory. BJD sources claimed that Chief Minister Patnaik would also come for campaigning so that different factions in the party’s district unit would be united.
The Congress is also not far behind. Senior leader Narasingha Mishra, Nabarangpur MP Pradeep Majhi and MLAs Bhujabal Majhi and Ramachandra Kadam are camping in the area. Besides, former MLAs Sadan Naik and Tara Prasad Bahinipati are also campaigning for the party’s candidate Jitendra Gond.
While the BJD has fielded a close associate of the slain MLA Jagabandhu Majhi hoping to win the election on a sympathy wave as Majhi was a bachelor without any political heir, the Congress is expecting to win the seat by making the deteriorating law and order situation in the Assembly segment its prime election agenda.
On the other hand, BJP candidate Dharmu Gond, who was Umerkote’s MLA in 2004 and had occupied second position in the last election, is quite optimistic of victory this time.  Senior BJP leaders, including State president Jual Oram, vice-president Ashok Sahu and former MP Parshuram Majhi are aggressively campaigning for the party candidate.
The Umerkote Assembly segment, which has around 1,64,000 voters, consists of Raighar and Umerkote blocks and the Umerkote NAC. Nine out of 24 panchayats of Raighar block bordering Chhattisgarh are considered the Maoist hotbed. Areas like Haldia, Gona, Timanpur, Naktichanla, Kudai and Mundibeda are some of the worst Maoist-hit areas in the State. The Mainpur Divisional Committee of the extremists is operating in these places.
Political observers believe that the bypoll will again return the BJD nominee to the Assembly though with a reduced margin. The interesting thing in the bypoll is to watch which of the Opposition political parties, the Congress and the BJP, finishes second.
It is vibrant that the main battle will be between the BJP and the BJD. If Subash Gond gains sympathy votes, he will win the elections by a huge margin. If people vote for a better candidate, Dharmu Gond will emerge as the winner. The Congress may finish third yet again, observers feel.