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Suryakant Jena

A former State cabinet minister and son of a ruling Biju Janata Dal MLA had to bite the dust while green horns like college students and a vegetable vendor secured the mandate of the public in the elections to the three-tier Panchayat polls in Odisha.

BJP leader and former cabinet minister Anjali Behera, who contested for Panchayat Samiti member seat from Giridhar Prasad Gram Panchayat under Hindol Block in Dhenkanal district, lost the recently held elections by 826 votes.

Behera, a three-time ex-MLA from Hindol seat was Women and Child Development and Handloom, Textiles and Handicrafts Minister in the Naveen Patnaik government from 2009-2011 and 2011-2012. She had joined the BJP in 2019 after being removed from the BJD over alleged anti-party activities.

To remain active in politics and serve the people she contested for a Panchayat Samiti member seat, Behera had told reporters before the elections.

Despite a Naveen Patnaik wave across the State which was corroborated after the landslide victory of his party, Biswajit Das, son of BJD MLA and former minister Ananta Das also had to face a similar fate like Anjali in the Panchayat polls from Balasore district.
Biswajit contested as a Panchayat Samiti member candidate backed by BJD from Sianroi Panchayat in Balasore district. However, he lost to an Independent candidate by a meagre 88 votes.

Another BJD-backed candidate and Ananta's relative, Achyutananda Das, also lost the polls in Maheswar Panchayat in Bhogarai of Balasore district.

On the other hand, Heera Nayak, an undergraduate student hailing from a poor family of Pratap Purushottampur village in Puri district emerged victorious in the elections. She won the seat of Panchayat Samiti member by a narrow margin of four votes.

Heera said her father is a daily wage earner and the family lives in a dilapidated hut. Despite the financial hardship and obstacles, she is pursuing her studies and is in the third year of her graduation courses.

"I have seen how my village people suffered in the Fani cyclone and how the local Panchayat members failed to deliver. Then, I decided to fight the elections," Heera said after emerging victorious. 

Same is the story of a vegetable vendor, T Sridhar, who has won as a Zilla Parishad member from Ramanaguda zone-I in Rayagada district. 

"People have reposed trust in me and they rejected money from rival parties to vote for me. I will never let them down," said Sridhar, who contested on a Congress ticket.

Out of total 851 Zilla Parishad seats in Odisha, the BJD steamrolled to an unprecedented victory in the Panchayat elections by winning 765 seats while the BJP and Congress had to settle for distant 2nd and third position with 42 and 37 seats respectively.

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