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Naveen leads bigwigs on campaign

Bhubaneswar, Sept. 4: Odisha chief minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik will hit the campaign trail tomorrow with his first public meeting scheduled in his constituency, Hinjilikatu, in Ganjam district, where the municipal poll scene is heating up.

Naveen will also address meetings at Balugoan and Banpur in Khurda district. The detailed tour programme of the chief minister, who is the BJD’s star campaigner, was chalked out yesterday following a meeting of party leaders at Naveen Nivas here.

“His detailed programme for the 10 days that he will campaign for the party has been finalised. We are leaving nothing to chance,” said BJD vice-president and revenue minister Surjya Naryan Patro.

The party has chalked out a list of 41 star campaigners. Apart from the chief minister, actor-turned-MP Siddhant Mohapatra, matinee idol Anubhav Mohanty and well-known comedian Tatwa Prakash Satpathy, better known as Pappu Pompom, and former Indian hockey team skipper and Rajya Sabha member Dilip Tirkey figure on the list.

While Siddhant and Tirkey will canvas support for the party candidates in the undivided Koraput district, Pappu will cover the urban areas of Berhampur, Digapandhi and Aska in the first phase of campaigning.

“Pappu is very popular among the people. We are pinning our hopes on him,” said a senior BJD leader.

Sources said the chief minister had decided to throw himself into the hurly burly of municipal elections as these polls are being considered semi-finals before the Assembly elections next year.

“If the BJD does well in these elections, it will go to the hustings in 2014 with a much higher degree of confidence,” said a party leader, admitting that the party was a little worried about its prospects in certain areas.

While the BJD is going ahead full steam ahead, the Congress, the main Opposition party, has decided to launch its official campaign from Jajpur Road on September 8.

Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena said: “Though informal campaigning is already taking place in most of the districts, we will officially launch it from Jajpur Road, where, among other leaders, Union minister for chemicals and fertilisers Srikant Jena will address the public meeting.”

The party has also decided to invite some of its central leaders to the state to boost its prospects. “We have requested Union ministers Chiranjeev, Jairam Ramesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot to campaign for us in the state. We are hopeful of a positive response from them,” said Jena.

In contrast, the BJP state unit has decided not to invite any leader from outside Odisha to campaign for it in the municipal elections.

“Our star campaigners are our local candidates. They know the ground reality. I will join the campaign from September 6. We have already prepared a list of state leaders who will be campaigning for the party,” said state party chief K.V. Singhdeo.