Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik held discussion with members of the Binjhal tribe ahead of the announcement of BJD candidate for the December 5 by-poll to Padmapur assembly seat as a significant number of voters of the constituency belong to the community.
The by-election was necessitated by the death of MLA Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha on October 3. Members of the community were considered to be supporters of Bariha, who was elected from Padmapur five times and was from the tribal group.
During the meeting with the chief minister on Sunday, the community members made it clear that they would only support Bariha's wife Tilotama or one of his daughters as the ruling party's nominee, Binjal Samaj president Hrushikesh Bariha said.
"We have told the chief minister that the community will support BJD if it nominates Bariha’s wife. If one of his daughters gets the ticket, we don’t have any issue. But, other family members like his nephew or daughter in-law (nephew’s wife) are not accepted," he said.
Ashwini Bhoi, a member of Binjhal Samaj, who was part of the team that met the chief minister, said the BJD candidate would win the by-poll if the party fields Bariha's wife or his daughter.
Sources in the BJD, however, said that the leadership is in a fix whether to field any candidate from the Bariha family or not, as the Congress and the BJP have nominated two experienced politicians for the by-poll.
The Congress fielded three-time MLA Satya Bhusan Sahu, while ex-legislator Pardip Purohit got a ticket from the saffron party. A section of BJD leaders consider that Bariha's wife may not be fit for the upcoming election even as she would get sympathy votes.
"The focus is now on two young daughters of Bariha- Barsarani and Kadambini," a BJD leader said. Meanwhile, Nayagarh’s Additional Collector Mahendra Badhei has resigned from the post as he is aspiring to get a ticket from the state's ruling party for the Padmapur by-poll.
He is being projected by another section of leaders in the BJD. However, all the party leaders said they would accept the chief minister's decision over selection of the candidate. Padmapur by-poll has become a prestige issue for the ruling BJD after its recent defeat in Dhamnagar by-election.
In the 2019 Assembly election, Bariha had defeated Purohit by a margin of over 5,500 votes from Padmapur segment. Purohit had won the seat in the 2014 assembly poll. Congress nominee Satya Bhusan Sahu was elected from Padmapur three times in 1980, 1985 and 2004.
Meanwhile, people of Padmapur intensified their demand for creation of a separate district, which is being supported by all the three major parties. Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari and senior BJD leader Sushant Singh on Sunday met the agitating members of Padmapur Zilla Kriyanustan Committee and invited them to a meeting with the chief minister.
"The action committee for creation of the separate Padmapur district had earlier met the CM and held discussions on the issue. Padmapur sub-division covers a vast geographical area. The BJD has full support for the demand for carving out a separate district from Bargarh," said Singh, a former minister.
BJP MP from Bargarh Suresh Pujari also met the committee members and supported their demand. "Though the people of Padmapur were earlier assured of a separate district, the government has not fulfilled it," Puajri said. Congress MLA Taraprasad bahinipati said his party will fight for the demand.
(With PTI Inputs)