Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik resigned from the Bijepur Assembly seat on Sunday, retaining the Hinjili seat from where he won for the fifth time in a row in the recently concluded state polls.
Patnaik sent his resignation as legislator from Bijepur constituency in Bargarh district to Assembly Speaker S N Patro, BJD general secretary Bijay Nayak said. The Chief Minister conveyed his gratitude to the people of Bijepur for supporting him.
A BJD MP said the party is likely to put up Rita Sahu as its candidate for the bypoll.
Patnaik was elected to the Assembly from two seats — Hinjili in south coastal Odisha and Bijepur in western Odisha. He had contested from Bijepur for the first time.
Patnaik, who steered the BJD to a landslide victory in the Assembly polls, defeated his BJP rival Pitambar Acharya in Hinjili by 60,160 votes. In Bijepur, the BJD chief defeated his BJP rival Sanat Kumar Gartia by 57,122 votes.
Bijepur was a Congress bastion until 2018 when the BJD won it in a by-election necessitated by the death of sitting Congress MLA Subal Sahu. The BJD had then fielded Sahu’s wife, Rita as its candidate.
Some leaders in the BJD expressed reservations on Patnaik’s decision to vacate Bijepur. “Normally, when a high-profile leader fights and wins from two constituencies, it is customary to retain the new constituency as a courtesy to the voters. For example, Prime Minister Narendra Modi retained Varanasi in 2014 though he had also won from Vadodara,” said a senior BJD MLA.
“Retaining Bijepur would have also sent a message that the CM is very keen on personally spearheading the development of western Odisha, which has had complaints of neglect by coastal Odisha leaders,” the MLA added.
Patnaik recently unveiled a package for Bijepur. The package proposes that two mega pipe water supply schemes, aimed at covering a population of 8 lakh across 505 villages, will be executed in Bargarh district at an estimated cost of Rs 1,120 crore. It envisages that all villages in Bijepur assembly segment will be provided piped water supply and household connection in two years.
The package also promises a new mega lift irrigation project by sourcing water from River Ong at an estimated cost of Rs 48 crore, 29 river lift projects and 3000 deep borewell irrigation projects. The package also promises that about 34,000 eligible households with kutcha houses will be provided with pucca houses.
Patnaik’s move comes amid a war of words between the BJD and the BJP. BJD Minister Susanta Singh had recently questioned why the Narendra Modi cabinet did not include MPs from western Odisha, despite the party winning Sundergarh, Bolangir, Kalahandi, Bargarh and Sambalpur seats. The BJP had replied that the region is being represented by Dharmendra Pradhan, who has been given the Petroleum and Steel portfolios. Pradhan is currently a Rajya Sabha MP from Madhya Pradesh.
The BJP has slammed Naveen’s decision to vacate Bijepur, calling it a “betrayal of western Odisha”. The party has said that despite being invited by western Odisha people and getting their votes, the Chief Minister has “ignored them”.