Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Rairakhol/Sunabeda, Apr 3:
Electioneering for eight urban local bodies (ULBs) in Odisha on April 7 maybe flying high with star campaigners using choppers to reach places faster and thus save time. But even these high-flying leaders know that there is no real substitute for good, old-fashioned door-to-door campaigning when it comes to wooing the voters.
Take Akash Das Nayak, for example. The Ollywood star landed at Rairakhol on a chopper and then immediately started doing the rounds of the town on foot with local leaders and workers of the ruling party in tow.
Clearly pleased with the response of the crowd, the actor turned politician said; “The response has been great. Last time we had won here. We will win this time too and with a bigger majority.”
Pitted against the star power of Nayak is the earthy approach of Union minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram, who has been campaigning door-to-door, besides holding workers’ meets in the town since yesterday.
The Sundargarh MP sounds upbeat about the BJP’s chances in the Rairakhol NAC.
“Development is our biggest war cry. In all these years of their rule, BJD has not been able to fix basic issues such as drinking water, electricity, road, drainage and electrification of streets. The citizens are watching it. BJD had both the local and state administration, but have done nothing to fix these issues. I am sure these issues will make people vote for BJP,” said Oram.
While the fight is between the BJD and the BJP in Rairakhol, the ruling party has to contend with the formidable challenge of the Congress, which has been doing badly in successive elections in the rest of the state, in Sunabeda. This despite the fact that the Congress, unlike the BJD and BJP, has chosen not to field a candidate in one of the 25 wards.
Past records too suggest this NAC is essentially a two-horse race with the BJP just making the numbers. The Congress and BJD have both won the NAC twice each while the BJP has never won before.
Energy minister Pranab Prakash Das is leading the charge in Sunabeda for his party with actor turned politician Munna Khan and MLA Pravat Biswal for company.
But Basanta Kumar Panda, the leader of the BJP legislature party in the Assembly who is supervising the party campaign here, is unfazed either by past records or the star power of the BJD.
“People have supported BJD earlier and have been cheated. They now understand what it is like to bring BJD to power. They haven’t been able to give a housing patta to a single man here in Sunabeda municipality. The star campaigners of BJD will not be able to make any dent to our votes,” said Basant Panda
Congress MLA Krushna Chandra Sagaria, who is lookign after the party campaign, is equally upbeat.
“Wherever we go, people support us. They understand the failures of the BJD. There is no job for the villagers; there is no respect for women,” said Sagaria.
The ruling BJD, however, does not appear to be to concerned about a determined Congress and a resurgent BJP.
We are going to win most of the 25 wards here. It doesn’t matter who is the competitor. We are giving our best shot and focusing on our campaign strategy. The response has been fantastic. The people love and admire the Chief Minister and Late Biju babu. We have done a lot of work here and are quite sure of a win,” said Das.