Streets wearing deserted look, shops downing shutters, motley groups of people engrossed in animated discussion in street corners and village tea shops. All these sum up the scene in Kendrapara, which is voting on Monday to elect the next Member of Parliament. High profile candidate Baijayant Panda, who won the seat in 2014 for BJD, is contesting on a BJP ticket this time. BJD has fielded Anubhav Mohanty against him.

For a casual visitor, the scene may appear unusual. A day before the ‘prestige’ poll battle in Kendrapara parliamentary seat and seven assembly segments, a peculiar silence prevailed in village after village.

As political discourse in Kendrapara parliamentary constituency, witnessing the most absorbing electoral battle, is to be settled in the fourth phase of the 2019 elections, people from far-flung villages to the urban centres of Kendrapara, Salipur and Pattamundai had been eager to take part in the grand finale.

Majority of the shops downed their shutters along the busy Cuttack-Chandaballi highway and the Paradip-Daitary expressway on Sunday. The shops and business places also wore a deserted look as people started leaving for their respective villages to take part in the voting. Buses plying in the area could be seen crowded, ferrying voters to their homes.

And everybody seemed to have turned into psephologists and political pundits.

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The coastal district, which has sent political heavyweights like legendary Biju Patnaik and former Lok Sabha Speaker Rabi Ray to don the mantle of lawmakers, is widely regarded for being home to poll-crazy and politically-conscious voters.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that permutation, combination and complex arithmetic of battle of ballot stay on the top of agenda in every conceivable street corners of the district.

The unusually aggressive and combative campaigning by BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik seeking votes for his symbolic entity Anubhav Mohanty (the BJD candidate) and his clarion call to voters to defeat BJP’s Baijayant Panda has provided intriguing twists and turns to the epic Lok Sabha poll battle.

“People are less interested here on the outcome on the Assembly seats. All eyes are on the Parliamentary polls as I have been told that Patnaik is fighting a personal battle against two-time Lok Sabha MP Panda who has switched allegiance to BJP. I have come to Kendrapara today and will cast vote tomorrow. Media is projecting it as a prestige battle. I also feel it a different election as talk on assembly election has been relegated to the rear,” Sangram Rout, an elector from Kendrapara town, said on Sunday.

He, however, said the “betrayal” theory that Patnaik had unleashed on his colleague-turned-foe (Panda) was not going to have an impact on the common voters.

“I will be vote for prestige and development,” said a voter from Rajnagar, Rajendra Das.

Four-time MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda faces the toughest test of his political career with tough and sturdy contest from political opponents — BJD’s cinestar-turned-politician Anubhav Mohanty and Congress’s lawyer-turned-politician Dharanidhar Nayak.

The hordes of ruling BJD leaders and BJP members who had been camping here left Kendrapara ahead of the polling as per the Election Commission guidelines that say non-voters should vacate the constituency a day before polling.

The BJP had repeatedly requested for deployment of central paramilitary forces apprehending rigging and violence by the ruling BJD. The BJD too had asked for increased deployment of forces to avert violence.

Chief Electoral Officer Surendra Kumar said additional forces had been deployed and strict vigil was being maintained in Kendrapara.

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