By Subrat Das*
Bhubaneswar: With just three days to go, Sundargarh Lok Sabha constituency, being held by Union Tribal Affairs minister Jual Oram in the dissolved Parliament and which comprises of Rourkela steel city, is witnessing keen contest.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have campaigned for Oram, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has conducted marathon campaign meetings and held roadshow in Rourkela steel city in support of his party’s candidates. He has played Hockey and Women Empowerment card in his speech. Sundargarh district is the cradle land of Hockey and the state government had earned accolades by successfully hosting Hockey World Cup at Bhubaneswar last year. Sunita Biswal happens to be the eldest daughter of former chief minister Hemananda Biswal, who is also the former local MP. On the other hand, veteran tribal leader, George Tirkey, who had recently joined Congress camp, is fighting as the party candidate. Tirkey enjoys considerable clout among the tribals.
This parliamentary constituency had last time also witnessed close contest between Oram and BJD candidate and former Hockey India captain Dilip Tirkey. Oram had won the seat by defeating Tirkey by only 18,829 votes. Congress contestant Hemananda Biswal, who bagged 2.69 lakh votes, remained in third slot.
However, Biswal is this time facing a curious situation as his eldest daughter Sunita has recently switched over to BJD to become its candidate. Biswal’s younger daughter Anita, however, is contesting from Sundargarh assembly segment on Congress ticket and Biswal is campaigning for her.
Lady luck of late is smiling on Oram, who had faced a difficult situation with former union minister and Rourkela MLA Dilip Ray quitting the party expressing his resentment against the delay in construction of second bridge over Brahmani river and upgrading Ispat General Hospital into a super speciality facility. Ray has recently made U-turn and thanked Prime Minister Modi over the twin issues. In this context, Oram has recently requested Ray to come back to the BJP and campaign for the party candidates.
Switch over of prominent tribal leader Kusum Tete from BJD to BJP has helped Oram a lot. Tete, who had resigned from BJD in protest of denial of party ticket to her, is contesting as BJP candidate from Sundargarh assembly seat.
On the other hand, sitting Congress MLA from Sundargarh Jogesh Singh has joined the BJD and is contesting on BJD candidate.
Congress is not, however, a discouraged lot. It has fielded veteran tribal leader George Tirkey as the party candidate for Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat. The party has renominated popular leader Dr Prafulla Majhi, who has been getting elected from Talsara assembly seat several times. George Tirkey’s son Rohit Joseph Tirkey is also contesting from the senior Tirkey’s old constituency Biramitrapur.
Congress has also clinched a deal with the Left Parties and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. As part of seat adjustment with the Left Parties, it has left Bonai assembly seat to the sitting CPM MLA, Laxman Munda. ”It will help in split of votes between the Congress and Left Parties and keep the BJD and BJP at bay,” said CPM state secretary Ali Kishore Patnaik.
The writer is a journalist currently working with Sambad Group as Consultant Editor of Group Digital Edition.