The panchayat elections have confirmed union minister of state for petroleum and natural gas, Dharmendra Pradhan’s status as the top leader of state BJP. Sources in the BJP admitted that with the party putting up a good show in the rural polls under his leadership, his projection as the party’s chief ministerial candidate in the 2019 elections is almost certain. Dharmendra himself has been more aggressive than ever while leading his party’s campaign in the panchayat polls which are being seen as the semi-final before the final battle for power in the state two years from now. “Pradhan has passed the leadership test in these elections with flying colours. It is now beyond doubt that he is the only leader of the party capable of taking on chief minister, Naveen Patnaik,” said a BJP leader. March 1-15, 2017