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Veteran & freshers in race

- Poll today, Naveen to make mayor choice

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 16: All eyes are set on BJD supremo and chief minister Naveen Patnaik as the city is set to get a new mayor tomorrow, when the election for the coveted post will be held.

Preparations have been completed at the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation office to hold the elections.

Municipal commissioner Sanjib Kumar Mishra said: “The newly elected members will elect the mayor tomorrow. If more than one person contests, voting will be held.”

However, there is least chance of any contest as the BJD has 49 councillors in the 67-member civic body. The chief minister will select the leader to head the civic body.

Former mayor Ananta Narayan Jena, who is immensely popular and under whose leadership the party fought the polls, is the front-runner for the post.

“Considering that he faces stiff resistance from a powerful local MLA, considered to be close to the chief minister, things could also go against him. There could be a dark horse. You never know,” said a BJD leader.

Jena, who at one time had nursed the ambition to go the state Assembly, had decided to lead the civic polls after being persuaded by party bigwigs.

He said: “I am a disciplined soldier of the party. I will abide by it whatever the party supremo decides. I will continue working to strengthen the party.”

The BJD in the city is a divided house. A section of the party, aware of Naveen’s emphasis on women empowerment programmes, has started suggesting that a woman should be installed as mayor of the city.

Bhubaneswar Ekamra MLA Ashok Panda said: “Whatever the chief minister decides, I will accept it. However, I will be personally happy if a woman candidate is elected as the mayor.”

“As the BJD’s Ekamra MLA from Bhubaneswar Ashok Panda had already suggested that a woman candidate should be given the post of mayor, the race for the post has become interesting,” said a senior BJD leader.

After the delimitation exercise, 34 of the 67 wards were reserved for women. This time, 38 women have become councillors, with four of them winning from seats reserved for other categories.

“It would be a welcome step if a woman candidate is elected as the mayor of the city. But it will be better if the party fields women candidates in the three Assembly constituencies in the city. This will give a strong message to the women voters across the state. All the three MLAs from the party are males,” said a party leader.

Bhubaneswar central MLA Bijay Mohanty said: “No proposal should be given from the grassroots level. The chief minister should choose the person.”

The women who are in the race are Mahamaya Swain and health minister Damador Rout’s daughter Preetinanda Routray.

Both the councillors were cautious in their reactions.

“What ever the chief minister decides, I will abide by it,” said Routray.

While Routray is the first time councillor, Swain has already been elected twice.

Others whose names are doing the rounds are Seikh Nizamuddin and Amaresh Jena. “The chief minister will take the right decision,” said Bhubaneswar (North) MLA Bhagirathi Badajena.