During the 2019 Assembly elections, BJD supremo and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had successfully contested from his home turf Hinjili and also Bijepur in Bargarh district. But he later vacated Bijepur and party candidate Rita Sahu won the Assembly seat with ease. However, the Opposition accused Patnaik of betraying the people of western Odisha by vacating the seat. Subsequently, Patnaik announced that he will personally monitor the development of Bijepur where he had announced Rs 1,330-crore package, including plans to provide pucca houses to 34,000 households in the constituency.
Now, with the urban elections round the corner, winning the two NACs in Bijepur, especially Barpali NAC which is the nerve-centre of Bijepur politics since the very beginning, is seen as a prestige battle for the ruling party. Though BJD has fielded Pradyumna Tripathy as its chairperson candidate for Barpali NAC, it is believed that infighting within the party may prove costly for the ruling party in the local poll.
As per reports, Tripathy lacks the support of local BJD leaders, including the incumbent MLA. Besides, apart from drainage and road issues in the NAC, an under-construction/pending railway flyover in Barpali is a major topic of discussion.
However, speaking to odishatv.in, Tripathy sought to dismiss reports of infighting and said his name was recommended by Bijepur MLA Rita Sahu herself and it was approved by party supremo Naveen Patnaik. "There are some misunderstandings, but it will be resolved soon. I am the candidate of CM Naveen Patnaik and hence, I believe all BJD workers and members will work in unison for the party and the party supremo by putting aside differences," said Tripathy.
On the flyover issue, he said when Rita Sahu along with her supporters (of which Tripathy was also a part of), joined the BJD, construction of the flyover was their first demand and even CM Naveen had given his approval and the funds were subsequently sanctioned. "Due to land acquisition issue, the project has got delayed. The Opposition has politicised the issue and creating hurdles in the acquisition even though the government is ready to give compensation as per the valuations."
On drainage issue, he said around 60 per cent of drainage work is already completed in the NAC but the remaining ones are getting delayed due to illegal encroachment. "We don't want to evict people all of a sudden and ruin their businesses. But we will ensure to complete it at the earliest," he added.
BJP's chairperson candidate for Barpali NAC, Ajit Dash however alleged ‘cash for vote’ and said, "The BJP has already won the Barpali NAC and it is quite evident from the unrest and disappointment seen among the people. Bijepur Assembly constituency is grappling with a slew of issues. There are no doctors here and even MLA Rita Sahu had once staged protest for the same, but all in vain."
He further alleged, "Politics has become an enterprise in the constituency. Several promises were made by CM Naveen Patnaik ahead of the general polls and by-elections in Bijepur, but people are still struggling for basic amenities in the region. People of Barpali now know that 'seva' (service) is for free, it can't be bought and therefore, they will vote for the BJP."
On his chances of victory, Congress candidate for the Barpali NAC, Abhishek Seth said the 50-year-old NAC is still crying for development. From defunct drainage system, dismal town planning and neglected cremation ground to pollution due to lingering of the flyover work, have made life miserable for the people of the NAC, he said, adding, “I will reach out to people with all these issues and ensure all problems are addressed if voted to power.”
“Interference by an outsider, who happens to be a Minister, has been witnessed in the Barpali NAC election. This is something that the NAC had never witnessed. There is anti-incumbency against the ruling party here and the BJP will definitely get benefitted,” claimed a local BJP leader, Kamlesh Ray.
Meanwhile, a senior local political analyst said that though there are a total of nine candidates in the fray for the Barpali NAC chairperson position, it will be a two-cornered fight-- between the BJD candidate and an independent candidate, Dinesh Gahir who has the support of the BJD dissidents.
“There are differences over the selection of BJD’s Barpali NAC chairperson candidate and it will definitely take a toll on the ruling party's prospects in the poll. No doubt, these internal differences will be a gain for the BJP and the Congress, but the independent candidate Dinesh Gahir is likely to gain the most,” he added.