BHUBANESWAR: The panchayat polls may well turn out to be a trailer for the 2019 Assembly elections in Odisha as announced by several BJP leaders with the party improving its position considerably in the Zilla Parishad elections, according to unofficial counting trends.
Though the counting trends of the first phase poll suggest that the ruling BJD is ahead of other political parties in the ZP polls, the BJP is following closely behind and may even catch up with the regional outfit in later phases.
The slender margin in seats won by BJD and BJP has come as a shock to the ruling party managers who were expecting a complete sweep. “We are winning, but the Congress has left the field whose benefit has gone to the BJP,” a subdued Surya Narayan Patro, former minister and BJD spokesperson said.
BJP spokesman Sajjan Sharma said the results so far indicate that the people want a change and there will be a change in 2019 Assembly elections.
However, the trends so far have been a big let-down for the Congress which is way behind the BJD and BJP. According to unofficial sources, BJD candidates have won or are leading in 94 Zilla Parishad zones followed by 66 by BJP candidates so far.
Congress is reported to have won or led in only 11 seats while five seats have gone to the Independents. While the BJP candidates have done exceedingly well in Kalahandi, Bargarh, Mayurbhanj and Kendrapara districts, BJD has won all the seats which went to polls in the first phase in Puri, Koraput, Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur, Sonepur and Nuapada districts.
BJP has thrown a tough challenge to BJD in Cuttack district where it has left the ruling party behind. Similarly, in Kendrapara district, the infighting in the BJD has helped the BJP win in half of the eight Zilla Parishad seats. BJP won all the nine Zilla Parishad seats where elections were held in Kalahandi district.
The BJD received a serious jolt when the Zilla Parishad seat in Ekamra Assembly constituency was won by BJP by a margin of more than 1300 votes. In Ganjam, the home district of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, BJD won 12 out of the 16 seats in which elections were held. However, in Sundargarh district, Congress has so far emerged as the winner in three zones followed by BJP in two and BJD one.
While BJD has won in two ZP zones in Lamtaput block of Koraput district, BJD has won two seats in Tarabha block of Sonepur district. All the four Zilla Parishad zones in Ersama block of Jagatsingpur district has been won by BJD. Two seats in Odagaon block of Nayagarh district has also gone to BJD.
In 2012 panchayat election, the BJD had won in 651 seats followed by Congress with 128 seats. The BJP had won in only 36 Zilla Parishad seats while 22 seats had gone to Independents. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had won in 11 seats while the CPI and CPM had won in two and one seat respectively.