BJP eyes BJD bastion for a maiden victory in Odisha

While Panda is perceived to be a high-profile candidate with influence and clout in national politics, both Mohanty and Das are making their debut in the Lok Sabha elections.

BJP eyes BJD bastion for a maiden victory in Odisha

BJD and BJP party symbol (photo:X)

The prestigious Kendrapara Parliamentary Constituency in coastal Odisha, which has sent a galaxy of political heavyweights including legendary Biju Patnaik and former Lok Sabha speaker Rabi Ray to the lower House in the past, is all set to witness a fierce electoral battle on the 1 June polls.

It’s a fight between two-time Lok Sabha MP BJP’s National Vice-President Baijayant Panda and BJD’s Anshuman Mohanty while Sidharth Swarup Das of the Indian National Congress is relegated to the third spot if the poll analysts are to be believed.

While Panda is perceived to be a high-profile candidate with influence and clout in national politics, both Mohanty and Das are making their debut in the Lok Sabha elections. Mohanty, a former MLA deserted Congress to join the BJD days before the polls. On the other hand, Das, who is fighting on a Congress ticket, is a political greenhorn with zero experience in electoral politics of either the Vidhan Sabha or the Lok Sabha.


The poll battle, according to observers, would be mainly between BJP’s Panda and BJD’s Mohanty, son of veteran politician late Nalinikanta Mohanty, who was incidentally expelled from the BJD in 2000 by CM Naveen Patnaik on ‘shadow of corruption charge’.

Kendrapara is in fact a Parliamentary Constituency where migration of skilled manpower, poverty, lack of industrial infrastructure, unemployment, and underdevelopment continue to be a disturbing feature since independence. Significantly, all seven Assembly segments coming under the constituency were bagged by the BJD in 2019.

This coastal region is primarily an agrarian belt with the people largely dependent on agricultural yield for sustenance. The district, despite having sent several political heavyweights to LS and State Assembly, does not figure in the industrial map though the Naveen Patnaik Government approved big-ticket ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel’s proposal to set up a Rs 1,02,275 crore worth mega steel project at coastal Mahakalpara block of Kendrapara district in December last year. The project is touted to be the largest in the manufacturing sector of the country. Yet voters are keeping their fingers crossed regarding the fate of the project as the Posco project still in the neighbouring Jagatsinghpur district did not come up.

The migration of skilled workforce is a common phenomenon here as employment opportunities are few and far between. Skilled plumbers from this region have made their presence felt across the globe. They are much sought after for their workmanship and dexterity. Exodus of plumbers to overseas is a recurring phenomenon. Just like nurses from Kerala, Kendrapara plumbers are much in demand in Gulf countries for their professional approach to work. The region, home to Bhitarkanika National Park and the Olive Ridley turtle habitat of Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, virgin beaches, is yet to be utilized for an ecotourism-related economy.

The Parliamentary constituency is home to 17,91,112 (around 18 lakh) voters. Of them, 42,181 are first-time voters. While 9,26,275 are male voters, 8,64,837 are female voters. The male voters with 52% outnumber the female voters

While the BJD won the LS seat defeating BJP in 2019, the saffron party stood next to the regional party in four Assembly seats (Mahakalpada, Patkura, Kisannagar and Mahanga) of the parliamentary constituency in terms of votes polled.

For BJP National Vice-President and former Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda who is contesting the prestigious seats, stakes are very high given the fact that he lost the poll battle comprehensively to BJD candidate Anubhav Mohanty by a margin of 1, 81,483 votes in 2019.

While the BJP intends to register its maiden electoral victory from here by chalking out a strategy to rope in heavy heavyweights including PM Modi for the poll campaign, BJD supremo Patnaik and the party’s second-in-command set their electoral agenda to maintain the winning streak that BJD has been doing since 2000 LS polls. The BJD thinks Kendrapara is their bastion and the regional party’s game plan is to dislodge Patnaik’s colleague-turned-foe Panda from the victory platform. The saffron party will also take the challenge belligerently by roping in the party’s heavyweights to ensure that BJD bites the dust for the first time from the key seat.

Amid intriguing electioneering, the grand old party – Congress – lagged well behind in the tenor and sturdiness of campaigning. With its star campaigners nowhere in sight, the party’s candidate Das is seemingly fighting a lone battle. The cash-strapped party will be no match to the intense high-voltage electioneering of its opponents in the coming days.

Panda was elected to Lok Sabha twice from the Kendrapara seat in 2009 and 2014 on a BJD ticket. He was also a two-time Rajya Sabha MP from 2000 to 2009. Panda was suspended from the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD before the 2019 LS polls on charges of anti-party activities and later he resigned from the party as well from the Lok Sabha.

For Congress, the constituency has been some sort of jinx. Since the first general election in 1952, it has been on a successive losing streak from this politically sensitive parliament seat.

Legendary Biju Patnaik (father of incumbent CM Naveen Patnaik) had won the seat thrice successively in 1977, 1980, and 1984. Late Patnaik, the incumbent Chief Minister’s father, could successfully withstand the sympathy waves triggered in the wake of the assassination of Indira Gandhi and won the seat in 1984. Former speaker Rabi Ray had won consecutive elections in 1989 and 1991.

Voters here are largely disinclined to comment on the preferences of their candidates. Their indecisiveness and stoic silence on the poll outcome is felt across the large constituency.

“Come 1st June. We will decide who to vote for. Now, we are preoccupied with our daily life”, said Kamadeb Rout from Mahanga.

I know for sure; that there will be no visible change in whoever wins. Kendrapara remains the same as it was when India attained independence. Though there has been improvement in infrastructure in the form of road infrastructure, river bridges, and rail lines, employment opportunities elude the youths here. They are talented and skilled and their services are being sought after across the country as well as in foreign countries. But neither Kendrapara nor Odisha is able to absorb them in meaningful and remunerative employment, rued an elderly voter from Kendrapara town, Subhash Chandra Mohanty.