Bhubaneswar: Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president Naveen Patnaik Monday tasked seven senior ministers and 18 MLAs with ensuring the party's victory in the July 20 Patkura assembly election.
The Odisha chief minister took the decision at a meeting of party leaders at his residence to defeat his friend-turned-foe Bijoy Mohapatra of the BJP, who will be taking on BJD greenhorn Sabitri Agarwal.
Sabitri Agarwal is the widow of former minister and sitting Patkura MLA Bed Prakash Agarwal, whose death on April 20 led to postponement of election for the assembly segment. Patkura was scheduled to go to polls on April 29.
The polls, which were rescheduled for May 19, were again postponed due to Cyclone Fani.
Patnaik has made the Patkura election a "prestige issue" and has asked senior BJD leaders to work in all the 51 gram panchayats of the constituency to ensure Agarwal's victory, party sources said.
He also directed the MLAs to work under the supervision of the ministers in specific areas of the constituency, they said.
Senior ministers who were assigned the task of ensuring BJD's victory are Prafulla Mallick, Ranendra Pratap Swain, Arun Kumar Sahoo, Sushant Kumar Singh, Samir Ranjan Dash, Raghunandan Das and Divya Shankar Mishra, the sources said.
Mohapatra, a founding member of the BJD, had quit the party ahead of the 2000 Odisha Assembly polls after he was denied ticket from Patkura, a seat he had won four times.
He lost from the seat in 2004, 2009 and 2014 mainly due to Patnaik throwing his weight behind the BJD candidates from the seat.
Sabitri Agarwal's son, Sanjay Agarwal, said, "People love Naveen Patnaik and there is no challenge to the BJD candidate. My mother, Sabitri Agarwal, will surely win the seat."
He refuted allegations of intra-party feuds in Garadpur and Marsaghai blocks of the segment.
Senior BJD leaders Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak and Ranendra Pratap Swain have been made in-charge of the two blocks respectively, he added.
Mohapatra is conducting a door-to-door campaign in Patkura.
"People will teach the BJD a lesson. They will create history by voting for the BJP and against the BJD misrule of over the past 20 years," he said.
Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan claimed his party will win the seat.
Opposition Congress too exuded confidence that its candidate Jayant Mohanty will win the seat.
The nexus between the BJD and the BJP was exposed in the Rajya Sabha nominations, senior Congress leader Taraprasad Bahinipati said.
The BJD had supported BJP candidate Ashwini Vaishnav in the Rajya Sabha nominations.
"Both the parties have a secret understanding in the crucial election for the Patkura seat as Naveen Patnaik does not want to see Bijay Mohapatra in the assembly and the Congress will take advantage of this," Bahinipati said.
Rejecting Bahinipati's allegation, Mohapatra said, "There is no connection between BJD's support to BJP's Rajya Sabha nominee and Patkura assembly polls. It is a battle for 'swabhiman' (prestige) in Patkura."
The counting of votes for the Patkura assembly election will be taken up on July 24.