[Watch] Odisha Panchayat Polls: ‘Missing’ (Then Found) Candidate Kicks Up Poll Dust In Malkangiri

Malkangiri: Despite having withdrawn from the contest, one face that is dominating the panchayat polls in Malkangiri district is that of 22-year-old Rina Kabasi.

Within days of filing her nomination as BJP’s Zilla Parishad candidate for Zone-II in Kalimela block of the district, Rina withdrew from the contest. In between, she also went “missing” on Tuesday, only to be “found” hours later in a dramatic turn of events.

She may have withdrawn from the fray but has become the talk of the town among voters, feeding curiosity, drama and trading of charges between parties as the poll fever picks up.

The BJP and BJD, the two main parties in the poll fray, have sharpened their battlelines over the episode and are sniping at each other.

The BJP on Thursday alleged that the BJD had promised Rina Rs 10 lakh for withdrawing her nomination. The party alleged that the ruling party had given her a blank cheque.

The BJP alleged that Rina withdrew her nomination under pressure from the BJD. Otherwise, why should she decide to withdraw from the contest without informing or discussing it first with the party, the BJP asked.

“A BJD activist who works at the Kalimela police station as a home guard struck a deal with Rina’s family, offered her money, job and a Rs 10 lakh blank cheque,” alleged Samal Sunani, BJP spokesperson.

He said that there were 15 Zilla Parishad zones in the district. While the BJD might have been successful in luring away the BJP candidate in one zone, the saffron party was ahead in the rest 14 zones and was on course to win in 10-12 zones and form the Zilla Parishad, he added.

The BJD dismissed the allegations as completely baseless and false.

“As the poll dates come closer, they (BJP) will throw more charges at us. The charges that we have bought their candidate are baseless. With Rs 10 lakh, we can win all the 15 Zilla Parishad zones of the district. Why should we give such a sum to the BJP? We are not a party that ‘buys’ candidates. Instead of blaming us, the BJP leadership should find out why they are unable to retain their own candidates. We should not be dragged into it. We are going to win. We are seeking votes on the basis of the development work done by the BJD in the last 20 years,” said Rajendra Panda, BJD spokesperson.

Malkangiri is a BJP stronghold. Current Zilla Parishad chairman Dasrath Padiami and Malkangiri MLA Aditya Madhi are both from the BJP.

While the BJP and BJD are the main contestants in the panchayat polls, the Congress is treading weak ground.

The sizeable Bengali population in Kalimela, Padia, Korukonda and Malkangiri Sadar blocks play a crucial role in elections in the district. The nearly two-lakh Bengali voters usually vote unitedly for one party.

Both the BJP and BJD are trying to woo them.

“Though it is a triangular contest, the Congress is on weak ground. It will be interesting to see for which party the Bengali community is going to vote. For the last 40 years we have seen they usually vote unitedly and it won’t be easy to divide their votes. The Rina episode has also lent an interesting turn to the polls,” said Bhaskar Chandra Behera, a poll analyst.

A day after she went “missing” on Monday, the BJP filed a written complaint at Kalimela police station on Tuesday.

The police launched a probe and found out that her mobile phone was switched off since Monday.

However, at around 8 pm on Tuesday, the police traced Rina’s location and found her safe. The investigation ascertained that she had gone there on her own will and volition. No foul play regarding her absence was found in the case, the police claimed.

The police also claimed that her family members had not filed any complaint that Rina was missing.

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