Campaign ended on Sunday evening for Odisha’s six Lok Sabha and 42 assembly seats where polling will be held in the third phase on April 23. Leaders of political parties like the BJP and the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) undertook whirlwind tours of the constituencies, mostly situated in coastal and central Odisha. Polling in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Puri, Sambalpur, Keonjhar and Dhenkanal Lok Sabha seats and 42 assembly segments coming under these constituencies will be held on Tuesday under tight security.
Spearheading the campaign for the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah crisscrossed the poll-bound segments addressing a host of rallies. BJP leaders including Union Ministers Uma Bharti, Nitin Gadkari, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Piyush Goyal also hit the campaign trail in these seats.
Apart from addressing rallies in Sambalpur and Bhubaneswar on April 16, Modi had also led a massive roadshow in the state capital the same day to bolster the prospects of the BJP at the hustings.
Similar roadshows had been held by Amit Shah in the seaside pilgrim town of Puri and the millennium city of Cuttack as part of BJP’s electioneering.
Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who hails from Odisha, is virtually camping in the state as the BJP is making all-out efforts to put up a formidable challenge to the BJD, which has been in power since 2000.
Star campaigners of the Congress were absent in this phase and electioneering was steered by leaders like Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Niranjan Patnaik.
For the ruling BJD, party president and state Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, seeking a fifth term this time, was at the centre stage undertaking extensive tours of the poll-bound areas and holding roadshows.
While the Congress and the BJP accused the BJD of having failed to ensure development in the state despite being in power for 19 years, the ruling party charged the two parties with adopting step-motherly approach towards Odisha and ignoring its genuine demands.
The third phase polling will decide the electoral fortune of 417 candidates – 61 in six Lok Sabha seats and 356 in 42 assembly constituencies.
While there are six women candidates in the six Lok Sabha seats, 38 women are in the fray for the 42 assembly segments.
The state has 21 Lok Sabha and 147 assembly seats.
Prominent candidates in the third phase are BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab who is seeking re-election from Cuttack Lok Sabha seat, and sitting BJD MP from Puri Pinaki Mishra, who is fightng to retain the parliamentary constituency.
In Puri, Pinaki Mishra is facing a stiff challenge from BJP’s national spokesperson Sambit Patra.
It has turned out to be an uphill task for Mahtab in Cuttack where the BJP has pitted retired IPS officer and former Director General of CRPF and ex-DGP of Odisha, Prakash Mishra against him. Also in the race in the Lok Sabha segment is Congress nominee and ex-minister, Panchanan Kanungo.
Campaign had also assumed a feverish pitch in the prestigious Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat which is witnessing an interesting fight with where former IAS officer and BJP nominee Aparajita Sarangi is crossing swords with retired IPS officer and former Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik, who is in the fray as BJD candidate.
As several areas going to the polls have been identified as critical, tight security arrangements have been made to ensure free, fair and peaceful poll, a senior police official said.
DGP (in-charge) B K Sharma has reviewed the preparedness for the third phase polls and directed police officials to take all necessary steps to ensure a free, fair and peaceful election.
As many as 92,56,922 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the third phase.