Kantabanji Set To Vote: Can Naveen Patnaik Get The Desired Impact?

Balangir: Will Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s decision to contest from Kantabanji, in addition to his traditional Hinjili constituency in Ganjam, fetch the desired impact for BJD in western Odisha?

With Kantabanji set to vote on Monday, all eyes are on the factors and plausible voter behaviour in this constituency.

Naveen’s entry has added a twist to the political dynamics in western Odisha, raising BJD’s stake significantly in the region, particularly in Balangir district. But will this move help the regional party counter the BJP’s growth in the region? Can it repeat the success it tasted in 2019 when Naveen contested from Bijepur in Bargarh district? Five years ago the regional party won in 22 of the 35 assembly segments in western Odisha even as the BJP bagged all five Lok Sabha seats.

With Naveen in the poll fray, there is palpable excitement in the BJD camp as the party in locked in a three-way fight with Congress and BJP. The Congress and the BJP have repeated Santosh Singh Saluja and Laxman Bag from the seat and both have good organisation.


The BJD is hoping that with Naveen contesting from Kantabanji it can counter the Narendra Modi factor in the region and also boost the morale of party workers and connect better with voters in the region.

While the regional party is trying to dilute the Modi impact, the Prime Minister did not shy away from taking potshots at the CM in an election rally in Balangir where he dared the latter to name 10 villages in Kantabanji without reading from a paper. Modi has also echoed the BJP’s Odia Asmita (Odia Pride) poll plank. The PM also invoked eminent Odia personalities such as Veer Surendra Sai, Gopabandhu Das, Harekrushna Mahtab and Biju Patnaik and said how sad they would be to see the state of affairs in Odisha from heaven while stating that the state’s culture is in danger under the current BJD government. “Odia Asmita (self-respect) can’t be mortgaged to someone like this,” he further said, in an indirect reference to bureaucrat-turned-politician V K Pandian and his rise in BJD.

While BJD is hoping to wrest the Balangir seat from BJP and put up a strong performance in western Odisha, the BJP is hoping to retain all five Lok Sabha Lok Sabha constituencies and also improve its assembly tally in the region.


With a significant presence of Punjabi and Marwari voters, Kantabanji has traditionally witnessed a fight between two archrivals — Santosh Singh Saluja of Congress and BJD’s Ayub Khan – since 2000. In 2019, BJP’s Laxman Bag secured 64,118 votes (33.53%) but lost to Saluja by just 118. BJD’s Ajay Kumar Das finished third with 54,527 votes (28.51%).

Naveen candidature from Kantabanji, held by four-time Congress legislator Santosh Singh Saluja, appeared to be a strategy to counter the Opposition’s influence. The Assembly segment is also strategically significant, nestled between Balangir and Kalahandi parliamentary constituencies and sharing borders with Chhattisgarh.

The decision is also aimed at making a dent in the vote bank of Congress, which won two MLA seats under Balangir LS constituency in last elections, and improve the number of votes to be polled for the BJD Balangir MP candidate.

In 2019, BJD MLA candidates won Birmaharajpur, Sonepur, Patnagarh and Titlagarh Assembly seats under Balangir parliamentary constituency while Congress was triumphant in Kantabanji and Balangir and BJP in Loisingha.


Kantabanji suffers from migration as poverty, poor irrigation, and natural disasters force those from western Odisha to seek work in southern states. Naveen contesting from the seat has raised hopes among residents for a positive change in their fortunes. The BJP has made the issue a key poll pitch, promising “one nation, one ration card” scheme for migrants and create over 51,000 jobs by setting up three integrated textile parks and a handloom export park.

Saluja, on his part, has accused the BJD government of having “failed” to set up any industry in the area while alleging that people do not get MGNREGA work here.

The opposition has also questioned if there will be any tangible improvement in the present condition if Naveen wins the seat while stating that he is more likely to vacate Kantabanji as was the case with Bijepur. Some voters, however, feel that the area will get priority in the BJD government if the CM gets elected from the seat and he would ensure its development even if he decides to vacate it.

Amid these allegations, counter allegations and promises, it is to be seen if the voters will go for Naveen’s or Modi’s guarantee or Congress will be able retain the seat in this fight involving a political giant.

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Comments are closed.