Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Apr 15:
Bollywood stars Raveena Tandon and Neil Nitin Mukesh lent glitter to the proceedings as the fortnight long campaign for the second phase of elections in Odisha reached fever pitch before the loudspeakers fell silent this evening.
Tandon, who straddled the Hindi film industry in the 1990s, made an impassioned pitch for comedy king turned BJD candidate in Champua Tatwa Prakash Satpathy, better known as Pappu Pom Pom, calling him ‘brother’ at a public meeting.
“It is not just politicians who can run the country. We artistes too can contribute to nation building. My brother, who has made you laugh – and occasionally cry – on screen, has now come to share your happiness and sorrow. Give him your blessings,” Tandon said. Pappu, who was standing next to the Bollywood star, looked suitably impressed.
As the 90s star regaled the audience in faraway Champua, current heartthrob Neil Nitin Mukesh was canvassing votes for Priyadarshi Mishra at various places in the North Bhubaneswar Assembly constituency.
It was indeed a star studded day as Oollywood stars Mahasweta Ray, Anubhav Mohanty, Sidhant Mohapatra and Mihir Das campaigned for BJD candidates at various places.
Congress too had its stars, but mostly in the form of candidates rather than campaigners. Aparajita Mohanty campaigned in Cuttack with her son and top selling Ollywood star Babusan in tow while Bijay Mohanty went door to door seeking votes in the Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency.
The BJP too pressed into service its limited star power in the shape of Sritam Das, Pinki Pradhan and Sunil.
It is not as if there were only cine stars though. Former BJP president Nitin Gadkari held rallies at four places at Morada in Mayurbhanj district, Soro in Baleswar district, Niali in Jagatsinghpur district and Jatani of Khurdha district.
On his part, Naveen Patnaik, the sole star campaigner of his party, made a whistle stop tour through a host of constituencies in Baleswar and Puri districts.
There are 98 candidates in the fray for the 11 Lok Sabha and 747 aspirants for the 77 assembly seats. Among them are several bigwigs, including eight ministers and 13 former ministers.
Congress stalwart and union minister Srikant Jena and former Union Minister Arjun Sethi of BJD, Baijayant Panda, Pinaki Mishra, Bhatruhari Mahtab are contesting from Lok Sabha seats. Also in the fray were BJP stalwart and former minister Bijay Mohapatra and OPCC President Jaydev Jena. The duo is contesting for Assembly seats.
Sons of two former chief ministers Tathagata Satapathy and Bijoyshree Routray are seeking re-election from Dhenkanal Lok Sabha and Basudevpur Assembly seats respectively.
Besides the big three- BJD, Congress and BJP – there are a host of smaller parties like AAP, Odisha Jan Morcha, Ama Odisha Party, Samata Kranti Dal, BSP, JMM and Trinamool Congress in the fray this time.