Bhubaneswar, Sept. 20: The BJD has reasserted its supremacy with a thumping victory in the civic polls, capturing 41 of the 65 urban local bodies for which the results were announced today.
The prestigious Berhampur Municipal Corporation also went to the party. The results for the Vyasa Nagar municipality in Jajpur district, where re-polling was held in two booths today, are expected tomorrow.
The BJD is the leading party in three more civic bodies and might seize those reigns with the help of Independent candidates.
The Congress has emerged a clear winner in 10 civic bodies has advantage in four others, where, too, Independents are set to play a crucial role. The BJP, which banked heavily on the Modi factor, was routed in the polls, which had been touted as the dress rehearsal for the 2014 general elections.
“The BJD has a clear majority in 41 urban bodies, the Congress in 10 and Independents in two. However, fate of 12 civic bodies remains hung,” said state election commissioner Ajit Tripathy.
As many as 66 civic bodies, including the Berhampur Municipal Corporation, went to polls yesterday.
The state government was forced to postpone the polls in 25 municipalities and notified area councils in nine districts of western Odisha following an agitation by lawyers demanding a permanent high court bench in the region.
For the BJD, winning the election was a prestige issue as it had gone to the polls seeking votes on the performance plank. While the party has done reasonably well in several areas, the leadership is bound to be worried about its performance in places such as Jagatsinghpur, Basudevpur, Nayagarh, Pipili, Jaleswar and Soro.
In Jagatsinghpur, which boasts of two BJD stalwarts, health minister Damodar Rout and former minister Bishnu Das, the party won in nine of 21 wards, while its candidates in Basudevpur council won seven out of 23 wards. Forest minister Bijayshree Routray represents the area.
The bastion of energy minister Arun Sahu, Nayagarh, also failed to yield expected results for the BJD, which won in six wards of 13. The Congress scored over the BJD here. Similarly in Pipili, the stronghold of former minister Pradip Maharathy, the BJD bagged six wards of 16. The ruling party also fared poorly in Angul and Athmallick represented, respectively, by steel and mines minister Rajani Kant Singh and former minister Sanjiv Sahu.
However, the BJD left the Congress and the BJP far behind in chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s home district, Ganjam, where it captured 15 of the 18 urban local bodies. “I would like to thank the voters for our great victory. I also thank my party workers,” said Naveen overwhelmed by the results. However, party sources said the chief minister was worried about the party’s poor show in areas such as Jagatsinghpur, where he had campaigned, but the rivalry between senior leaders such as Damodar Rout and Bishnu Das tanked the party’s chances there.
The debacle of the Congress has raised questions on the leadership of Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena, who is now likely to face mounting dissidence. Former state Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik said: “Time has come for us to engage in some serious introspection. If we don’t make the right moves, we will be left behind in state politics.”
Former state Congress youth wing chief Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra echoed the same sentiments and put the blame on wrong strategy.
Jena admitted to the need for introspection but said people working against party interests need to be taken to task. “We need structural changes at various levels. Steps will be taken against elements, which worked against the party,” he said. The party also lost in Anandpur, which is Jena’s home turf.
The BJP was leading in the Rairangpur council, but even there, it would be at the mercy of the Independent candidates.