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Pradeep Pattanayak

With the elections to the urban local bodies in Odisha around the corner, all major political parties have throttled up the campaigning to woo the mandate of the public. 

But the conspicuous absence of Opposition big shots from their campaign trail has puzzled political analysts. 

Experts say that the absence of heavyweights from campaign may not only have catastrophic impact on the poll prospects of the parties but at the same time, may pave way for the ruling BJD to repeat its resounding success of Panchayat election in the urban polls.  

Like the three-tier elections to the Panchayati Raj bodies, BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has not yet stepped out into the campaign arena for his party.

But, analysts sound a word of caution before making any speculations that Patnaik is unbeknownst to what is going on the ground. In fact, Ministers and legislators have been tasked with certain jobs and they are going out of their ways to meet the set targets. 

BJD leaders believe their party will repeat the same feat as it did in the Panchayat elections, without direct presence of Naveen on the poll battle. It is because, Naveen’s clean image and people-friendly schemes have enough strength to weather the challenges from the Opposition. 

Consider the case of BJP which might suffer the worst due to absence of its heavyweights in the poll campaign field. 

It is believed in the political circles that Union Minster Dharmendra Pradhan’s role was instrumental in Uttar Pradesh victory, and he has not been able to give time for the party’s gameplan in Odisha. 

It is also getting clearer by the day that hope of seeing Pradhan or other Union Ministers in the remaining phase of campaigning is also slender. This is because, other senior leaders like party's National Vice President Baijayant Jay Panda is busy for Delhi Municipal Elections and National spokesperson Sambit Patra is preoccupied with the charge of Pravari for Manipur state. 

Hence, in their absence, Union Minister Biseshwar Tudu, former Union Minister Pratap Sarangi and MP Aparajita Sarangi are managing the show. 

Apart from BJP, the situation of Congress is also well imagined. None of the party’s leaders have been seen in the field. Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Niranjan Patnaik spotted during Panchayat election has not appeared even for once during this ensuing ULB election campaigning. 

“We can’t expect that the top leaders of our State, who played crucial roles during the recently concluded Assembly elections in five states, can find time to join the campaigning given their responsibilities. However, we have continued our campaigning with the available local leaders,” said BJP’s State spokesperson Dillip Mallick. 

However, veteran Congress leader and Jatni MLA Suresh Routray said the absence of top brass would hardly have any impact on the party’s performance. 

About the absence of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the ongoing poll campaigning, Law Minister Pratap Jena said, “We swept the Panchayat results almost entirely, imagine if CM Naveen joins the poll campaign, I am confident that the Opposition will suffer more embarrassment.”

Political analyst Prasanna Mohanty observed that none of heavyweights of the two Opposition parties have so far been seen in the campaigning field, so it can well be guessed that the ruling party will repeat its Panchayat result this time as well.


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