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BHADRAK

Union Minister for Water Resources Arjun Charan Sethi appears well-entrenched to make it to the Lok Sabha for the sixth time.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2004 17:08 IST

Brushing aside bickering between BJD-BJP workers in this reserved parliamentary constituency, Union Minister for Water Resources Arjun Charan Sethi appears well-entrenched to make it to the Lok Sabha for the sixth time.

Sethi, who is the BJD candidate and faces Congress candidate Muralidhar Jena as his principal opponent, has launched a high-voltage campaign to woo the voters while flaunting his achievements for the constituency during his tenure as Union Minister.

Bhadrak, carved out as a separate constituency in 1962, has seven Assembly segments along the coast -- Bhadrak, Nilagiri, Simulia, Bhandaripokhari(SC), Dhamnagar, Chandbali (SC) and Basudevpur.

Four of these segments had BJD MLAs in the dissolved Assembly while one each had a BJP, CPI(M) and an independent member. The Minister of State for Forest, Bijoyshree Routray represented the Basudevpur seat.

But complex equations at the ground level between workers of the BJD and BJP, alliance partners in Orissa, were the main hurdles the Union Minister faced on his way to yet another victory.

The electoral battles being fought in two Assembly seats -- Chandbali and Dhamnagar -- were being keenly watched in this constituency.

At Chandbali, where the battle is being fought between BJP member of the dissolved Assembly Bishnu Sethi and former Congress Minister Strananda Mallick, the entry of a BJD rebel Rajendra Kumar Das had queered the pitch for the BJP.

A major faction of the BJD were not campaigning for the BJP candidate affecting Arjun Charan Sethi's prospects and it was not known which way they would go.

The fierce triangular contest involving BJP state chief Manmohan Samal, independent candidate Manas Ranjan Mallick, who was a member of the last Assembly, and Congress aspirant and former minister Jagannath Rout at Dhamnagar was also being keenly watched by poll observers.

Mallick, like he did in 2000, has entered the fray after failing to get the BJD ticket as the seat fell in the BJP kitty during sharing of constituencies. Mallick had declared that his supporters would not back Sethi's candidature.

The Union Minister would depend on leads he expects from other segments like Bhadrak, Bhandaripokhari and Simulia for his victory.

On the other hand, the Congress campaign was yet to take off the ground as far as the Lok Sabha poll was concerned, with party nominee Muralidhar Jena yet to press on the accelerator.

Congress banners or posters are hardly seen while four well-decorated BJD 'raths' were doing the rounds in the constituency carrying huge cutouts of Sethi and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik.

The decision of veteran Congress leader and former minister Jugal Kishore Patnaik to join the BJD after being denied the party ticket to contest the Bhadrak assembly seat has also strengthened Sethi's position.

Sethi has released six well-produced glossy booklets cataloguing his performance and achievements for his constituency as an Union Minister along with other leaflets to improve his chances.

Party workers point out that the Union minister had ensured that the sanctions made from his MPLAD fund had been fully utilised while he had brought projects worth about Rs 200 crore in the water resources and railway sectors in the constituency.

Sethi had first won the Bhadrak Lok Sabha seat as a Congress candidate in 1971 but lost the 1977 polls to Bairagi Jena of Janata Party as the strong post-emergency wave swept Congress out of power.

He was elected from the seat twice in 1980 and 1984 as the Congress candidate before he joined the Janata Dal. As JD nominee, he won the seat in 1991.

Muralidhar Jena, however, lifted the seat for the Congress in 1996 defeating Ratha Das of JD. But Sethi, contesting on a BJD ticket in 1998, defeated Jena for his fourth victory.

The veteran leader repeated the feat in 1999 at the expense of Panchanan Mandal (Cong) who was defeated by a huge margin of 1,22,433 votes.

If he wins this time, it would be a hat-trick of victories for the 64-year-old Dalit leader.

First Published: Apr 25, 2004 17:08 IST