In what is being seen as a morale booster for Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the face of BJP’s aggression to make inroads into the state, the BJD secured a landslide in the Bijepur assembly bypolls, defeating BJP’s Ashok Panigrahi by more than 41,0933 votes. BJD candidate Rita Sahu secured around 1,02, 871 votes and captured nearly 57 per cent of vote share in the crucial seat, which fell vacant following the death of her husband, Subal Sahu, in August 2017.
After the results were announced, Sahu said her priority would be the all-round development of the people in Bijepur. “I’ll work for the all-round development of the people in our area and strive hard to fulfil my husband’s dream,” PTI quoted Sahu as saying.
Hailing the victory, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the outcome of the polls would have an impact on the 2019 Assembly elections. “Such an enormous victory with a margin of over 40,000 votes will have an impact on future elections,” Patnaik said.
While thanking the electorate for keeping faith in the BJD, Patnaik said the people of Bijepur had rejected violence. “Odisha is a peaceful state; the people will not stand for violence in a democracy,” he said in an apparent dig at the BJP, which has sent many of its Union ministers to Odisha since last year to change the political narrative in the state that has been ruled by the BJD for the past 17 years.
The results have also come as a jolt to the Congress — the state’s second-largest political force – which finished third in the bye-elections. The BJP had already laid the groundwork by its impressive show in the state rural polls last year, where it not only edged past the Congress but increased its tally of zilla parishad seats from 36 in 2012 to 297.