By Subrat Das*
Bhubaneswar: The four Lok Sabha constituencies, which are going to polls in the first phase, are going to witness intense fighting between three prominent political parties in the state-the ruling BJD and Opposition BJP and Congress. Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal supremo Naveen Patnaik today held road shows in his home district Ganjam to formally launch election campaigning for his party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched election rally at Bhawanipatna yesterday. On the other hand, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had addressed rally at Jeypore in the region last month.
The four Lok Sabha constituencies, which are going to polls on April 11 in the first phase are: Koraput, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Berhampur. At one point of time, the region was a Congress stronghold and Berhampur had elected the then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao in 1996. This region has also seen the representation of BJD-BJP alliance till the break of the alliance on the eve of 2009 general elections. Then saw the BJD raj in the region.
This time, the ruling BJD has replaced its sitting MP Jhinna Hikaka in Koraput Lok Sabha constituency with his wife Kausalya to ensure party’s victory. She is contesting against veteran leader and former minister Jayaram Pangi. Denied party ticket, former Koraput MP Pangi had switched over to BJP a few years ago. Pitted against them is engineer-turned-politician Saptagiri Ulaka of Congress. He is the son of veteran Congress leader Rama Chandra Ulaka, former minister and eight-time MLA of Rayagada. Senior Ulaka was also a two time MP and Leader of Opposition in the state assembly. His wife Ratnamani is also a senior Congress leader.
Neighbouring Nabarangpur Lok Sabha constituency is also witnessing tough contest between the three prominent parties. Popular tribal leader and SC & ST Welfare Minister Ramesh Chandra Majhi has been fielded by the party this time, who has replaced the sitting MP Balabhadra Majhi. Irked by the denial of party ticket, former Railway official Balabhadra has quit the party and is contesting as the BJP candidate. Pitted against them is former Nabarangpur MP and working president of Pradesh Congress Committee Pradeep Majhi. Pradeep, who had won the seat in 2009, was defeated by Balabhadra in 2014 by a slender margin of 2042 votes.
In Kalahandi Lok Sabha constituency, close fight is being held by BJD’s Dharamgarh sitting MLA and former minister Puspendra Singh Deo, BJP state president and Nuapara MLA Basanta Kumar Panda and veteran Congress leader and former union minister Bhakta Charan Das. The Congress leader has been elected from this tribal-dominated region several times. His son Sagar Charan Das is also contesting from the Bhawanipatna assembly segment. BJD candidate Singh Deo may face some difficulty as the sitting MP, Arka Keshari Deo, a scion of Kalahandi royal dynasty, has been dropped.
Berhampur Lok Sabha constituency which is the nerve centre of the region, is witnessing role reversal this time. Former union minister and veteran Congress leader Chandrasekhar Sahoo is contesting this time on BJD ticket. He has replaced sitting MP and popular Odia film star Siddhant Mohapatra. Sahoo is this time facing contest from BJP’s popular youth leader Bhrugu Buxipatra. Bhrugu is the son of the veteran trade union leader and former Janata Dal minister Harischandra Buxipatra. On the other hand, Congress has fielded a new face V Chandrasekhar Naidu, an industrialist.
The writer is a journalist currently working with Sambad Group as Consultant Editor of Group Digital Edition.