Despite the ruling BJD deploying a huge line-up of filmstars for a month-long campaign, opposition BJP posted stunning results in the first phase of panchayat polls, winning or leading in at least 68 of the 188 zilla parishad seats. BJD, meanwhile, managed an impressive show in nearly 100 seats. The BJP, which won just 36 of the total 854 zilla parishad seats in the 2012 panchayat polls, seems set to better its tally with four more rounds of polling remaining till February 19.
The zilla parishad seats are contested on party symbols. Although BJD was expected to do well, BJP sprang a surprise, sweeping the zilla parishad election in Mayurbhanj, Bargarh and Kalahandi districts. It is all set to replace the Congress as the Number 2 party in phase one. Congress won around 20 zilla parishad seats. Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who spearheaded the BJP campaign in the state, said the poll results showed CM Naveen Patnaik was losing ground fast. “It’s endgame for BJD soon,” he said. However, BJD spokesperson Sashibhushan Behera said not too much should be read into the first phase results as four more rounds were yet to happen. The BJP also fared well in Keonjhar, Boudh, Sambalpur, Malkangiri, Kendrapara, Jharsuguda, Sundargarh and Angul.
The three-tier panchayat polls in Odisha began Monday amid cases of poll violence reported in different parts of the state. In the first round held Monday, more than 71 people people turned out to vote despite reports of poll boycott and violence. Brahmagiri, three persons were injured in a case of poll violence, while the husband of a sarpanch candidate was attacked.
In Korukonda block of Malkangiri, posters and banners of Maoists were found in Somnathpur Panchayat Office, asking people to boycott polls. In Kendrapara district, miscreants looted a ballot box from a polling booth of Jagdalpur panchayat and threw it into the river. In Reng village under Bureshwar panchayat of Nuapada district, tension erupted after some unidentified miscreants barged into booth no. 12, poured petrol onto the ballot box and torched it.