Minority, Farmer Voters To Play Key Role In Dhamnagar By-Polls


Bhadrak: The Dhamnagar assembly constituency in Bhadrak district is witnessing hectic political activities with parties putting in all efforts to win the seat in the by-polls on November 3.

The by-poll was necessitated by the untimely death of sitting BJP MLA Bishnu Charan Sethi on September 19.

The saffron party, banking on sympathy votes, has fielded Sethi’s son Suryabanshi Suraj.

The ruling BJD, helmed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, has nominated Abanti Das, a woman self-help group member, while Congress has fielded advocate Baba Harekrushna Sethi.

However, the by-election has become a prestige issue for the ruling party as its former MLA Rajendra Das is contesting the by-poll as an Independent candidate after the state leadership preferred a woman candidate at the last moment.

Incidentally, Rajendra Das was the political mentor of Abanti Das.

“I will fight for the Swabhiman (self-respect) of Dhamnagar as the local people support me,” Rajendra Das said even as the BJD is banking on the CM’s charisma to clinch victory.

BJD vice-president Debi Prasad Mishra, who has extensively campaigned for party candidate Abanti Das, sounded confident of the party nominee winning the by-poll.

“We are confident of BJD’s victory in Dhamnagar by-election. Even though the BJP had won the seat in 2019, the BJD secured a majority of the seats in the panchayat and urban polls held earlier this year. The candidature of Rajendra Das will not have any impact as people will vote for Naveen Patnaik and nobody else,” he said.

The Congress also hoped for a win as party candidates have secured the seat seven times since 1951.

“The people of Dhamnagar have realised that BJD and the BJP are two sides of the same coin, so they will vote for the Congress,” OPCC president Sarat Pattnayak said while campaigning for the party nominee.

The electoral history of Dhamnagar, however, shows that the segment has witnessed three by-polls since 1951 and every time, voters elected the son or wife of the sitting MLAs whose deaths necessitated the by-elections.

The first by-poll was held in 1961 when the then Congress legistor Muralidhar Jena died and his wife Satyabhama Dei was elected in the by-election that followed.

The second by-poll was held in 1990 when newly elected Dhamnagar MLA Hrudananda Mallick died during the victory procession. His son Manas Ranjan Mallick won the seat.

Now, in the third by-poll, deceased MLA Bishnu Charan Sethi’s son Suraj is the BJP candidate.

“We are confident that the people of Dhamnagar will pay their tributes to Bishnu Babu by blessing his son Suraj,” said Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who campaigned in the constituency on October 28 and 29.

The nomenclature of Dhamnagar originates from two words – ‘Dharma’ (religion) and ‘Nagara’ (town), advocate Prahallad Singh said.

He said Muslims are a deciding factor as they constitute around 24,000 of the 2,38,417 voters.

School teacher Ramchandra Samal, however, said that the BJP candidate had won the 2019 assembly election by a margin of 4,625, which shows the “secular nature of Dhamnagar voters”.

Locals, however, said there was not much development in the constituency despite the area having given two chief ministers to Odisha.

Former chief minister Harekrushna Mahtab was elected from East Bhadrak constituency, of which Dhamnagar was a part. Another former chief minister, Nilamani Routray, was elected from Dhamnagar seat.

He said although rivulets Salandi, Reba, Kapali and Genguti, besides Baitarani River, cause floods almost every year, farmers don’t get river waters for irrigation.

The polling is scheduled to be held on November 3, while the counting of votes will take place on November 6.

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