Devbrat Patnaik

Padampur recorded a huge voter turnout of 81.29 per cent in the crucial bypoll to the Assembly constituency held on December 5. Reports have come to the fore suggesting the by-election was a two-way contest between BJP candidate Pradip Purohit and BJD's Barsha Singh Bariha. Counting of votes would begin at 8am on December 8, and will be done at 14 tables in 23 rounds.

Who will emerge victorious? The by-election is being keenly watched by everyone. Its result in favour of the saffron party will push the BJD into a state of self-introspection going into the 2024 elections.

Former MLA and BJP's candidate Pradip Purohit says he is confident that ruling-BJD will lose by a huge margin. "Ever since the poll date was announced, people's blessings and support have been there for me. Voters and party workers were full of enthusiasm. That is why the by-election saw record polling. I am hopeful BJP will win," he said.

The Congress, on the other hand, seems hopeless and has already accepted that it is out of contention even before the counting has begun. “Wind was blowing our way before the CM hit the campaign trail. After that, there was massive distribution of cash by both BJD and BJP. We lagged behind in cash-for-vote. I have not accepted defeat. But I feel it will be the victory of Dhanatantra, not Ganatantra (democracy). If we lose, it will be because of this one reason,” said Congress candidate and three-time MLA Satya Bhusan Sahu.

OPCC president Sarat Pattnayak was also of the opinion that Congress is unlikely to win in Padampur. "If one observes the trends in last few years, we have constantly secured 4000-5000 votes. This indicates the fighting spirit is not up-to-the-mark. Padampur battle is between Centre and state government. They distributed money, we stuck to our ideologies and principles," said the PCC chief.

The by-election, which was necessitated following death of MLA Bijaya Ranjan Singh Bariha, assumes significance in the wake of the BJD's recent loss in Dhamnagar. A loss in Padampur would mean two back-to-back bypoll defeats for the ruling party since 2009, which will heavily dent the reputation of the BJD.

On eve of the counting day, a meeting was convened by BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at his residence Naveen Niwas to discuss the possible outcome of the Padampur bypoll. The BJD also looks confident of a landslide victory. Party leaders opined that they will lead in all the three blocks and NAC in Padampur.

"All party observers were called today, we put forth the efforts made during the field work. The CM was apprised about our position in the grassroots. The CM was happy. The BJD will win with massive votes. Within 24 hours, people will come to know that developmental activities were carried out by the CM in Padampur. Dhamnagar outcome will not have any impact on Padampur results," said Sudhir Samal, BJD’s Bargarh observer.

BJD MLA Sarada Nayak stated, “The CM has sought a report on the prevailing issues, and the future map so that the party could take rapid strides in development. Our belief is the BJD is set for landslide victory.”