Naveen Patnaik vacates Bijepur seat in western Odisha, BJP cries foul
A little more than a week after he won from the western Odisha assembly constituency of Bijepur, chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday vacated the seat to retain his old pocketborough of Hinjili.
For the first time in his political career, Patnaik had contested from two assembly seats which he won with comfortable margins. In Bijepur, he had defeated his nearest rival and BJP candidate with a margin of over 57000 votes while in Hinjili he defeated BJP spokesperson and lawyer Pitambar Acharya with a margin of over 60000 votes.
Patnaik took oath for his fifth term as chief minister on May 29.
Last week, the Biju Janata Dal chief dropped enough hints of leaving Bijepur when he announced a mega package for the constituency that saw his party candidate win the bypoll in February 2018. The package included giving 34,000 pucca houses, two mega piped water supply schemes, piped water supply to all the households in the next two years, a lift irrigation project worth Rs 48 crore, 29 river lift irrigation projects and about 3000 deep borewell irrigation projects.
In a statement, Patnaik said though he was leaving Bijepur, its development would be his responsibility.
“I was overwhelmed by your love during Bijepur bypoll in February 2018. During 2019 election, I was requested from several quarters to contest from western Odisha. In this context, I had decided to contest from Bijepur. I will always be indebted to your love and affection. I have always fulfilled the promises made to you and would keep on working for it,” he said.
Political analysts said Patnaik’s move to contest from Bijepur was a strategic move to checkmate BJP’s rise in western Odisha, where it was better placed. “Of the 14 assembly seats in western Odisha districts of Sambalpur and Bargarh, BJD won 11. It’s another matter that BJP won Sambalpur and Bargarh Lok Sabha seats. But Patnaik’s strategy surely paid dividends,” said political analyst Rabi Das.
The BJP which won 23 Assembly seats in Odisha this time, criticised Patnaik’s decision to vacate Bijepur.
BJP MLA from Sambalpur, Jaya Narayan Mishra said the move to leave Bijepur showed that the chief minister had little concern for Bijepur. “Had he decided to keep Bijepur, then the constituency could have been developed like Hinjili. But the chief minister has only shown his discriminating attitude towards western Odisha,” he said.
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