Pradeep Pattanayak

With the counting of votes for Dhamnagar seat started, the excitement among the candidates and their respective parties has reached a feverish pitch. 

Even as five candidates are in the fray, a neck-and-neck contest among three candidates is expected. These candidates are Suryavanshi Suraj of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Abanti Das of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Rajendra Das, an independent candidate. 

In the past elections, the BJP won twice in 2019 and 2004. While Bishnu Charan Sethi came victorious in 2019, Manmohan Samal won in 2004. In the 1995, 2000, 2009 and 2014 elections, the winning candidates were Jagannath Rout of Congress, Manas Ranjan Mallik, an independent candidate, Rajendra Das of BJD and Muktikanta Mandal of BJD respectively. 

However, if the past trend of by-elections is any indication, the conch party is in a favourable position as its candidates scored a sweeping victory in the past four by-elections. Its candidates like Rita Sahu, Swarup Kumar Das, Bijay Shankar Das, Rudra Pratap Mohanty and Alaka Mohanty won Bijepur by-election in 2019 polling 73.86 votes, Balasore by-election in 2020 poling 51.8 per cent votes, Tirtol by-election in 2020 polling 51.91 per cent, Pipili by-election in 2021 polling 53.60 per cent and Brajarajnagar by-election in 2022 polling 61.25 per cent votes respectively. 

While around 2,38,417 voters were to exercise their franchise this year, only 66.13 % voters turned out at 252 booths to cast votes. 

The counting has started on 14 tables and will be done in 18 rounds. A three-tier security arrangement has been in place at the Sanskruti Bhawan near the Collector’s office where the counting is taking place. 

Besides, a team of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is in the inner circle with teams of the Odisha State Armed Police Force and Odisha police being in the middle and outer circle respectively. 

It is expected that the results will be known by 2 pm.