By Jatindra Dash, Bhubaneswar, April 15 IANS | 8 months ago

About 16 million voters will decide the political fate of 98 candidates for the 11 Lok Sabha and 747 aspirants for the 77 assembly seats in the final phase of polling Thursday in Odisha, with the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) hoping to romp home for the fourth straight term.

Although different regional and national parties have fielded their candidates, the main contest is between the BJD, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) nominees for most of the seats.

These three parties have fielded their candidates in all the 21 Lok Sabha and 147 assembly constituencies in the state.

The first phase of the election was held April 10 for 10 Lok Sabha and 70 assembly seats.

The popularity of the BJD, which has been ruling the state since 2000 and is seeking a fourth term, will be under test in this election. It won 103 assembly and 14 Lok Sabha seats in 2009.

The state witnessed 75 percent voting in the first phase, nearly 10 percent more than what it recorded in the 2009 general election, a senior official of the office of the state's chief electoral officer told IANS.

Odisha has a total 28,880,850 electors and 13.45 percent are in the age group 18-25 while women constitute 47.93 percent.

Spontaneous participation of young voters is being cited as one of the main reasons behind high polling in the first phase.

In the past few days, the state saw intense campaigning by political heavyweights, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi, and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

Despite a heat wave and mercury shooting up to 40 degrees Celsius and above in many places, leaders were seen making frantic efforts to reach out to voters.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is the tallest leader of the state's ruling party, addressed about a dozen rallies and road show daily as part of his efforts to woo the electorate.

The BJD has been banking on the state government's achievements, including the Re.1 per kg rice scheme and health insurance for farmers among many others, while opposition parties are expecting to fare better by highlighting the state's failures.

BJD vice president Surya Narayan Patro said his party is set to win for the fourth term and get more Lok Sabha seats as compared to what it got last year, because of Patnaik's "clean image".

He said the rice scheme was benefiting six million poor people and the insurance cover provided to six million farmers will ensure the win.

Patro told IANS the government has also been providing monthly pension to two million elderly people.

Modi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi addressed rallies in the state during the past few days and termed Patnaik's government as non-performing.

"They (BJD) want three-four selected industrialists to take away the entire wealth of Odisha," Rahul Gandhi said while addressing an election rally Monday at the coastal Jagatsinghpur town.

Prominent leaders in the fray in the final phase of the polls include union Minister Srikanta Jena and industrialist-turned-politician Baijayant Jay Panda.

(Jatindra Dash can be contacted at jatindra.d@ians.in)

(Posted on 15-04-2014)

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