A resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made inroads into Odisha, and was seen leading in nine of the 21 Lok Sabha (LS) constituencies in the state, till latest voting trends emerged.
The party — leading in 22 of the 146 polled Assembly constituencies — could have, at best, secured three LS seats, but split voting is set to buttress its numbers in Parliament.
The BJP, the key challenger to the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha, had also profited from split voting in the state’s three-tier panchayat polls earlier, where it performed exceptionally well, dislodging the Congress as the main Opposition.
Riding on the split voting phenomenon, the BJP is seemingly narrowing the gap with the redoubtable BJD, which had whitewashed Opposition in 2014, bagging 20 of the 21 seats.
In the run-up to the 2019 elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and a posse of national party leaders campaigned extensively.
In Bhubaneswar, Aparajita Sarangi (BJP) is maintaining a lead of over 18,100 votes over her nearest competitor Arup Patnaik of the BJD.
Bhubaneswar is billed as the battle of civil servants, with Sarangi, a former IAS officer, taking on the superannuated IPS officer Patnaik. Another superannated IPS officer Prakash Mishra (BJP), too, is staring at defeat with BJD’s MP from Cuttack Bhartruhari Mahtab, maintaining a lead of around 60,000.
Kendrapara, considered the pocket borough of the BJD, may be retained by the regional party. The constituency has turned out to be a battle of prestige both for the BJP and the BJD.
Puri, another crucial seat, is going through a see-saw of electoral fortunes. After leading in the initial rounds of counting and later trailing Patra narrowly, BJD’s MP Pinakhi Mishra has again wrested advantage and was seen leading by a puny margin of 376 votes.
The BJP is also leading in Bolangir, Kalahandi, Sambalpur, Sundargarh and Bargarh.
At Kandhamal, Achyutananda Samanta contesting on BJD ticket, is on the edge of a massive win, leading his nearest competitor — Kharabela Swain (BJP) — by over 109,000 votes. In the Sambalpur Lok Sabha constituency, BJD’s candidate and the government’s former works secretary Nalini Kanta Pradhan was trailing BJP’s Nitesh Ganga Deb by a margin of 15,098 votes.