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Pradeep Pattanayak

The widening of internal rifts within the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha were badly exposed during several instances in the recently concluded block chairman elections. 

Take for example, the case of bickering within BJD unit in Sundargarh where District BJD president Binay Toppo and Prafulla Majhi, a Congress turncoat who jumped into BJD camp, locked horns to take control of Balishankara Panchayat Samiti chairperson post. 

While Prafulla tried his level best to see his wife, Tribeni Majhi, at the chairperson seat, Kunjalata Bhitiria, who was supported by Toppo, stole the show.

A similar situation unfolded at Chhatrapur in Ganjam district. Here the infighting came to a head during the block chairman election on Saturday when former MLA Priyanshu Pradhan and sitting MLA Subash Behera engaged in a showdown with each other. Eventually, the election had to be postponed. 

Elsewhere in Kendrapara, local MLA Sashi Bhushan Behera and lesgiator from Rajnagar Dhruba Sahu came to face to face over Panchayat Samiti chairman post. In the tight contest, Pradyumna Samantaray who was supported by Dhruba Sahu pipped Behera-backed Annapurna Mallick to claim all the spoils. 

However, Sahu termed the allegations of rising dissension within the party's district unit as baseless. “There is no party infighting in the Panchayat Samiti election as the members contest elections without any party symbols or affiliation," said Sahu. Kendrapara MLA Behera too refuted the allegation. 

The pictures of the political scenario in the aftermath of Panchayat elections in Rayagada district also seemed to corroborate the claims of backbiting in the conch party. 

While the BJD has secured nine out of 11 blocks in the district, the party had to face decimation in Ramanaguda and Gunupur blocks where a Congress and an independent candidate romped home. 

Political circles widely believe that rivalry between the party’s Rajya Sabha MP N Bhaskar Rao and Rayagada district president Sudhir Das, may have cost the party two block chairman posts. 

Likewise in Simulia Assembly constituency, the conch party suffered a massive jolt. Khaira and Simulia Panchayat Samitis under the segment have been wrested away from BJD by the Saffron party. The debacle in the above two Panchayats meanwhile has triggered a serious mudslinging between Simulia MLA and Tourism Minister Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi and Balasore district president Rabindra Jena. 

“Despite the fact that Simulia is the constituency of the Tourism Minister, the party made a poor show which surprised everyone. In coming days, the party will try to find out what led to party’ debacle in Simulia,” said Jena.

When asked, Panigrahi’s curt answer was that the Panchayat Samiti elections are not held on party basis. 

As per sources, BJD has claimed to have captured 278 blocks out of the total 314. But political corridors are rife with speculations that the antagonism between factions in the ruling party camp witnessed during the recently concluded block chairman election may prove detrimental for its future prospects.  

However, Parliamentarian Munna Khan exuded confidence that the party wouldn’t face any trouble in the coming days. “Since our party is quite large and has extensive strength at the grassroots level, there may be difference of opinions or infightings in the party. But we can manage them to move ahead. I am sure such rifts will cause no harm to the party in any way whatsoever,” said the actor-turned-politician.

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