Bhubaneswar, Feb 22: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to become principal opposition after the five-phased Panchayat elections in Odisha. In the fifth and final phase of the Odisha Panchayat elections 2017, the BJP tally has gone up, causing severe jolt to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in western region of the state. The BJP’s surge also pushed Congress to the third position in the Odisha Panchayat elections 2017. Though the Odisha Panchayat election results 2017 will be officially declared on February 25, it has become clear that the BJD has lost its supremacy in the state.

In the fifth phase of the Odisha Panchayat elections 2017, the ruling BJD has won 68 Zilla Parishad zones of the 150 zones which went to polls in this phase. The BJP has bagged 56 Zilla Parishad seats, while the Congress managed to capture 12. While the BJD maintained its lead in all the five phases, but the BJP made heavy inroads in the Western Odisha. The BJP is at advantage in Kalahandi, Mayurbhanj, Malkangiri, Bolangir, Sonepur, Sambalpur, Bargarh and Deogarh districts.

The BJP has won 299 Zilla Parishad seats out of the 848 seats which went to polls in the five-phased Panchayat elections in Odisha. The saffron party had won only 36 seats in the 2012 Panchayat polls in the state. While the BJD emerged as largest party bagging 427 Zilla Parishad seats, Congress was reduced to 60 from its last tally of 126. The rise of BJP came as major setback for its one-time ally, the BJD which had swept Panchayat elections in 2012, winning 651 Zilla Parishad seats. Congress too suffered severe losses as its seat tally dropped by half.

The BJD which is ruling Odisha for the fourth consecutive term is now facing tough challenge from the BJP. To beat anti-incumbency, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is the sole face of the BJD, had visited almost all the districts, announcing new schemes and laying foundation stones for new projects. Patnaik also tried to whip up popular sentiments by raising the Mahanadi water dispute with Chhattisgarh by organising protests and Jal Satyagraha, but it seems it didn’t pay off for the BJD.

On the other hand, the BJP not only managed to take its numbers up, but also made inroads in the strongholds of the BJD. Due to the rise of the BJP, the BJD lost ground in over 100 Zilla Parishad constituencies. The victory in Panchayat polls is the major boost for the BJP that is eyeing to expand its wings in the coromandel states.

The panchayat polls were held in five phases in Odisha. The official announcement of the names of the winning Ward Members and Sarpanches will be made on February 23 and Zilla Parishad members and Panchayat Samiti members on February 25.