BJD, BJP in direct fight in 6 Lok Sabha, 42 assembly segments of Odisha

Bhubaneswar, May 24 (PTI) Amid the grueling heat and humidity, Odisha is all set for the third round of voting on Saturday, covering six Lok Sabha and 42 assembly segments, with the main contenders being the ruling BJD and the opposition BJP.

The parliamentary constituencies going to the polls are Sambalpur, Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, and Puri. A total of 64 candidates are vying for the six Lok Sabha seats, while 383 contestants are competing for the 42 assembly segments. While it is the third round of polls in this eastern state, nationally it is the sixth phase.

In the 2019 elections, the BJD had secured Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Puri, and Cuttack, while the BJP won Sambalpur and Bhubaneswar.

For the assembly segments within these Lok Sabha seats, the BJD won 34 out of 42 seats in 2019, the BJP bagged six, and Congress two.

A total of 9,448,553 voters – 4,829,660 men, 4,617,602 women and 1,291 transgenders – are eligible to vote in 10,581 polling booths.

Odisha’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) NB Dhal said voting will start at 7 am, with the closing times varying between 4 pm and 5 pm based on local conditions.

Given the hot and humid weather forecast by the IMD, arrangements have been made at polling stations to provide water, shade, and other essentials. Special accommodations will be provided for the elderly and physically challenged voters.

DGP Arun Kumar Sarangi said 35,000 security personnel, including 121 companies of central forces, have been deployed across the six constituencies. About 2,000 polling booths have been identified as critical, necessitating the deployment of central forces to ensure free and fair elections.

Key candidates in this round include Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and four Odisha ministers – Prafulla Mallick, R P Swain, Ashok Panda, and Basanti Hembram.

Pradhan is contesting as a BJP candidate in Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat, facing BJD’s Pranab Prakash Das. Pradhan, who has not contested in 10 years, previously lost in the 2009 assembly elections and was later elected to the Rajya Sabha from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. He is replacing incumbent BJP MP Nitesh Ganga Deb.

The BJD has introduced new candidates in Cuttack, Puri, Dhenkanal, and Keonjhar, while the party has re-nominated Aparajita Sarangi in Bhubaneswar.

In Puri, BJP’s Sambit Patra, who narrowly lost to BJD’s Pinaki Mishra in 2019, is contesting again, this time against Arup Patnaik, a former Mumbai police commissioner.

In Cuttack, BJD’s incumbent MP Bhartruhari Mahtab has switched to the BJP and is contesting against BJD’s Santrupt Mishra, a former corporate leader. Mahtab has represented Cuttack since 1998.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and other senior BJP leaders have campaigned extensively. Modi held rallies in Angul and Cuttack, as well as roadshows in Puri and Bhubaneswar. Shah held a roadshow in Cuttack, and BJP president JP Nadda held several meetings.

BJP chief ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma, Vishnu Dev Sai, Bhajan Lal, and former Tripura CM Biplab Deb also campaigned for party candidates.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his aide V K Pandian campaigned for BJD candidates, while Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally in Salepur, Cuttack district.

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