Odisha Elections 2024: Modi, Naveen Face-Off Turns Balangir Into Prestige Battle

Bhubaneswar: With BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik tossing his hat in Kantabanji ring and Narendra Modi throwing a challenge at the former, the electoral battle for Balangir Lok Sabha seat has only got bigger.


While a royal, a turncoat and an actor pitted against each other this time, the fight in Balangir in a way is gradually turning out to be between Naveen and Modi.


In 2019, the BJP won all five Lok Sabha seats, including Balangir, in western Odisha. To deflate the ‘Modi Wave’, apart from his home turf Hinjili, Naveen decided to contest from Kantabanji, one of the Assembly seats under this parliamentary constituency currently being represented by senior Congress leader Santosh Singh Saluja. The bet Naveen has placed is also aimed at making a dent in the vote bank of Congress, which won two MLA seats under Balangir in last elections, and improve the number of votes to be polled for its 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.

With the same intent, the regional party has fielded Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo, who lost the MP seat to BJP in last election, from Balangir Assembly seat and he has a fair chance of winning the seat with Samarendra Mishra having replaced his father and Congress veteran Narasingha Mishra with the latter deciding not to contest upcoming elections.

While Naveen and Kalikesh are trying to wrest back Kantabanji and Balangir seats from Congress, the regional party is hopeful of Nihar Ranjan Behera winning from Loisingha. Nihar is the son of Jogendra Behera, who won the seat in 2014 elections on BJD ticket. The party has renominated sitting MLAs from the remaining 4 seats.


While BJD was making all attempts to perfect the poll math with its calculated moves, Modi added a twist to the fight with his rhetorics at Vijay Sanklap Yatra in Balangir. Putting away the niceties of the past, Modi asked the gathering to put Naveen’s knowledge of his state to test by asking him to name 10 villages in Kantabanji, while criticising the CM’s habit of reading from papers. He 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.

However, it is to be seen if the double bullet fired by Modi would translate into votes for BJP and upset BJD’s calculations.


The BJP has renominated its incumbent MP Sangeeta Singh Deo and she is locking horns with Congress turncoat and BJD candidate Surendra Singh Bhoi. The charm and influence of erstwhile royal family of Singh Deos have remained undiminished in the last six elections with Sangeeta winning the seat four times (1998, 1999, 2004 and 2019) for BJP and her brother-in-law Kalikesh of BJD emerging victorious twice (2009 and 2014).

While the victory margin for BJD in 2014 was over 1 lakh, it narrowed down to around 20,000 votes for the BJP in 2019.

With Bhoi, a tribal, the ruling BJD hopes to wrest the seat back from the BJP by making a dent in Congress’ vote share. He was given the ticket, five days after he snapped his 38-year-old ties with Congress. The three-time former Congress MLA lost the last two elections from Titlagarh Assembly seat to BJD’s Tukuni Sahu.


The Congress has nominated Manoj Mishra, who is known for his work in the Hindi, Odia and Tamil film industries, from the seat. The political greenhorn has entered the poll fray, raising different issues including labour migration problem prevalent in western Odisha. In recent months, he attempted to strike a regional sentiment by stoking a controversy over Ollywood’s alleged discriminatory attitude towards western Odisha.

Amid the new faces and changed strategy, the Balangir fight has turned into a prestige battle after the face-off between Modi and Naveen, who had hit back at the PM questioning his contribution and commitment to the development of Odisha and its language.

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