Bhubaneswar: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Union minister Smriti Irani are set to address public meetings today the Bijepur assembly constituency as the campaigning for the February 24 by-polls draws to a close.
Patnaik will be holding a 6km roadshow from Barpali to Kumbhari village for BJD candidate Rita Sahu, sources in the ruling party said. The roadshow will pass through Dhirpur, the native place of BJP contestant from the seat, Ashok Panigrahi, he said.
“The ruling party is already ahead of its rivals in Bijepur. The chief minister’s campaign will ensure that party candidate Rita Sahu wins the poll with a big margin,” BJD spokesman Debashis Samantray said.
The CM, who will be here for two days, will visit all the gram panchayats in the Bijepur segment, he added.
The Union textile, information and broadcasting minister, on the other hand, will hit the trail for Panigrahi in Barpali town, a saffron party member said, adding that she will address three public meetings tomorrow.
The BJP leaders are optimistic that Irani’s campaign will boost the chances of the party in the constituency, he said.
Taking a dig at the Union minister, the ruling party’s leader, Pradeep Maharathy, today said, “Nobody in Odisha knows Smriti Irani.”
Maharathy, who is also the panchayati raj minister in the state, asserted that that he would resign from the council of ministers if the BJD gets defeated in the by-poll.
BJP spokesperson Pitamber Acharya said that the ruling party is afraid of Smiti Irani, who is a “good speaker”.
Several Union ministers, including Santosh Gangwar, Swadhi Niranjana, Dharmendra Pradhan and Jual Oram, have visited the assembly constituency over the past weeks to campaign for Panigrahi. Union Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Giriraj Singh, who was in the constituency today, said the ruling party has not created enough employment opportunities for the youths of Odisha.
The bypoll was necessitated following the death of Congress MLA Subal Sahu in August last year. The ruling partys candidate, Rita Sahu, is the wife of the deceased MLA. The Congress, which had been holding the seat for three consecutive terms since 2004, is also trying its best to retain the seat. Congress nominee Pranaya Sahu had been campaigning in Bijepur, accompanied by Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Prasad Harichandan, senior leader Narasingha Mishra, former and Union minister Srikant Jena.