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BJD retains Cuttack, MLAs jolted

Congress supporters rejoice in Cuttack. Picture by Badrika Nath Das

Cuttack, Feb. 7: The BJD today retained control over Odisha’s second richest civic body bagging 36 of the 59 wards that went to polls yesterday. Independents, the Congress and the BJP cornered 10, 9, 4 seats, respectively

The Cuttack Municipal Corporation poll was the last test of strength for political parties before the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. The victory followed sweeping of the urban polls in western and coastal Odisha, including the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, by the ruling party.

“The victory is the manifestation of the peoples’ faith in our leader and chief minister Naveen Patnaik and his government,” BJD leader and Choudwar Cuttack MLA Pravat Biswal said.

However, BJD could not better its own record in Cuttack, where it had bagged 37 wards in 2009 civic polls against eight of Congress and two of the BJP. There polls also jolted two BJD leaders — Athagarh MLA Ranendra Pratap Swain and Mahanga MLA Pratap Jena — as their nephews Amarendra Pratap Swain and Kaniska Jena lost the elections.

The BJD also received severe jolts in Choudwar Assembly constituency with party candidates winning only in 10 of the 22 wards in the segment. In the Barabati Cuttack Assembly constituency, BJD won in 22 of the 31 wards. In Sadar Cuttack Assembly constituency, the BJD won in four of the six wards.

Four rebels (kin of BJD councillors) won as Independent candidates, trouncing the official ones. Two official BJD candidates lost in the wards, where the residences of Barabati Cuttack MLA and Choudwar Cuttack MLA are located.

All set to head the Cuttack Municipal Corporation for the second consecutive time, the BJD’s performance in today’s civic polls has exploded the Opposition’s hopes of reversing the trend.

Accepting defeat City Congress Committee president Md Moquim said: “We are not totally disappointed as our party has gained in terms of vote share and given close fights in several wards, while increasing its tally in comparison to 2009. This makes us optimistic about our performance in the Assembly elections.”

However, state Mahila Congress president and former minister Bijaylaxmi Sahu’s daughter Sriya Sambedana lost the election contesting on a Congress ticket.

The BJP, too, accepted defeat, but hoped to better its performance. “We have won from two more wards than in 2009. Our vote share has also increased considerably in several wards,” said BJP state general secretary Nayan Kishore Mohanty.

This election also dealt a rude blow suspended BJD leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra’s Odisha Jana Morcha and former Congress leader Soumya Ranjan Patnaik’s Ama Odisha. Morcha had fielded 22 candidates and Mohapatra had campaigned extensively. Similarly, Ama Odisha had supported 35 candidates, but both the new entrants drew a blank.

After a Congress-majority council in 1997, a fractured mandate had prevented any political party from enjoying absolute majority to form the municipal council in 2003. While BJP had cornered 16 of the 48 wards, 14 wards had gone to the Congress and nine to BJD. The BJP formed the council making post-poll alliance with BJD.

In 2009, the BJD had wrested the corporation from the BJP. Though Independents had a share of six wards, two of them had won with the support of the BJD and the BJP, respectively. Similarly, four other Independent councillors had joined the BJD, taking the party’s strength to 42 of 54 in the municipal council.

Later three councillors – one each from the Congress, the BJP and the NCP — had crossed over to the BJD.