Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Mar 29:
They are literally feeling the heat. Candidates in the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Odisha are timing their campaign schedule in a way that saves them from the blistering sun when it is at its hottest.
Candidates make sure they carry plenty of water while embarking on electioneering. Butter milk and tender coconut are flying off the shelves as the leaders and their supporters guzzles gallons of them every day to keep the heat at bay. Cucumber salad is also in great demand as a coping mechanism against the scorching heat.
Temperatures in many parts of the state sped past the 40 degree Celsius mark on Friday. More ominously, the Met department has forecast that things would only get hotter in the next few days.
Politicians in the coastal areas are having a particularly torrid time because of the excessive humidity that is accompanied by the surging mercury. Electioneering is physically demanding because most candidates mover around in open jeeps under the scorching sun.
“We avoid campaigning between 1 to 4 pm when the sun is at its hottest, prolonging the lunch break in the process,” said Jual Oram, former BJP president and the party candidate in the Sundargarh Lok Sabha constituency. “We prefer to hold padayatras in the morning. The second innings begins around 4.30 pm and ends around 10 pm,” he added for good measure.
But the problem there is no respite for the candidates even during the extended lunch break as they have to meet local elders and visit places of social and religious importance during this period.
Undaunted by the pressure though, Oram asserts that the heat has in no way affected his vigour to put up an intense fight.
Finance minister Prasanna Acharya concurs with the former Union Minister. “I forget all about the heat when I am interacting with the people. The popular response has been so overwhelming that I don’t even think about personal inconveniences,” says the BJD candidate in Bijepur, who was holding a public meeting in his constituency today.
Acharya’s schedule, however, ends even earlier than Oram’s. Starting at 7 am, he ends the morning by 10 am. “We also make sure there is sufficient water for the people,” he said.
Congress candidate in the Nabarangpur Lok Sabha seat Pradeep Majhi is luckier than his counterparts in central and western Odisha because his part is not as hot as the others. “The heat has had very little effect in the campaign process. We are all busy preparing for Rahulji’s visit on Monday,” he said.