The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJD set to grow in rural Orissa, not ally

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 22: Seven years after the NDA coalition came to power in Orissa, the BJD is yet to suffer from the anti-incumbency factor, suggest reports coming in from the districts.

In a repeat of the 2002 zilla parishad polls, the BJD seems to have emerged on top with 326 seats while its ally has finished a poor third with 140. The Congress has held on to the second spot with 301 seats.

Not only has the BJP finished third, its seat share has also gone down. In 2002, it had won 183 seats, 43 more than this year. Elections were held for 854 seats but results have come in for 844.

Both the BJD and the Congress, on the other hand, have improved their tallies. The two parties had won 291 and 283 seats, respectively, last time. The BJD has also bettered its victory margin from eight to 25. The JMM has won 24 seats and the OGP eight.

The state election commission will publish the official results on Saturday, including those where counting is yet to be completed due to repoll.

Surya Narayan Mishra, a professor of political science at Utkal University, said the results suggest that the BJD has not lost its ground in the hinterland. The party, he pointed out, has fared well because voters recognised its development work in rural areas.

The Congress, the professor continued, improved its tally but could not make the most of the situation arising out of the differences between the two ruling parties.

The BJP, on the other hand, put up a dismal show due to a combination of factors — decline at the national level, internal strife and dearth of charismatic leaders in the state, observed Mishra.

State BJP president Suresh Pujari admitted that they could have “fared better” had the two coalition partners fought the polls together. He said the party lost around 60 seats by a slender margin due to a split in anti-Congress votes.

OGP president Bijoy Mohapatra described the polls as the “most expensive” in the state and claimed that the BJD spent over Rs 40 crore in the campaign.

State Congress president Jaydev Jena, too, alleged that the ruling party used “money and muscle power” to win the elections.

BJD general secretary Jagneswar Baboo denied the charge and said: “People are mature enough not to be purchased by anybody.”

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