Bhubaneswar | Odisha chief minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik is “seriously considering” a proposal to contest the assembly polls from a seat in western Odisha.
“Party leaders from western Odisha as well as farmers, women and students have requested me to contest from a constituency in the western region,” Patnaik told reporters on Sunday.
He said he was considering the proposal “very seriously”.
The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo’s move assumes significance in the backdrop of Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) impressive performance in western Odisha in the 2017 panchayat elections.
While Congress president Rahul Gandhi‘s back-to-back visits to the region in a bid to bolster his party’s poll prospects has further mounted pressure on the ruling BJD.
Senior BJD leader and Rajya Sabha member Prasanna Acharya, who hails from western Odisha, said party MPs and MLAs from the region have urged the chief minister to contest the ensuing election from a constituency in their region.
A host of intellectuals, writers, farmers, women leaders, youth, students and people from all spheres have also made an “emotional” appeal to Patnaik to contest the assembly polls this time from west Odisha, he claimed.
“We hope he (the chief minister) will accept the appeal,” Acharya said.
Patnaik represents Hinjili assembly seat in Ganjam district winning successive assembly elections since 2000.
Hinjili, which falls under Aska Lok Sabha constituency, is slated to go to polls in the second part of four-phase elections in Odisha.
While Patnaik has not chosen any particular seat yet, his announcement triggered speculation whether he will contest from both Hinjili and a constituency in west Odisha or choose one of the two.
Reacting to Patnaik’s move, BJP national secretary Suresh Pujari said: “We welcome the proposal. Let him (Patnaik) come to western Odisha with his report card mentioning what his government has done for the development of the region.”
Patnaik needs to answer a number of questions about the “backwardness” of western Odisha, the BJP leader said referring to the plight of farmers and the state of hospitals, colleges and schools in the region.
“The BJD’s move is guided by its dwindling popularity in the region where the BJP has emerged as a major political force with a bright future,” he said.
Simultaneous polling will be held in Odisha for its 21 Lok Sabha seats and 147 Assembly constituencies in four phases on April 11, 18, 23 and 29.