Odisha Elections 2024: Can Lekhasri Samantsinghar Become Balasore’s First Woman MP?

Balasore: With an old war horse, a sitting MP and a turncoat in the fray, Balasore Lok Sabha constituency is poised to witness an interesting contest in the upcoming elections in Odisha.


While BJP and BJD had earlier announced former Union minister Pratap Sarangi and Lekhasri Samantsinghar as their respective candidates, Congress on Saturday spiced up the poll battle by fielding former Union minister Srikant Jena from the seat.

Will Balasore vote for a woman MP this time? Will Pratap be able to retain his seat? Or, will Srikant, who returned to Congress-fold after a gap of 5 years, be able to upset the well-calibrated strategies of both BJD and BJP?  If Lekhasri manages to woo majority of the voters, she will not only help BJD wrest the seat back from BJP but also create history by becoming the first woman MP of Balasore.

All the three major parties – BJD, BJP and Congress – have won the seat once in the last three elections.

In 2009, Srikant won from Balasore but five years later finished third after BJD’s Rabindra Kumar Jena, the winning candidate, and Pratap. The BJP wrested the seat from BJD in 2019 when Pratap defeated Rabindra by a slender margin of 12,956 votes. However, there was a marked improvement in the vote share of the saffron party as it jumped from 27.81% in 2014 to 41.79%. While BJD’s loss was less than 1%, Congress saw a sharp decrease of 11% in its vote share. The grand old party lost almost 20% of its vote share in subsequent two elections since 2009.

While BJP hopes to repeat the feat with the sitting MP riding the waves of ‘Modi’s guarantee’, the BJD is eyeing to capture a portion its vote share with Lekhasri, who would be making her electoral debut as a Conch candidate after being associated with the saffron party for over 10 years. With her nomination, the regional party would also be hoping to score some brownie points having fulfilled its 33% women candidates promise for Odisha’s Lok Sabha seats. Apart from the woman card, Lekhasri might also use her OBC status to woo voters.

If political analysts are to be believed, Srikant may also play the OBC card and set tone to his campaign with ‘BJP & BJD’s live-in relationship’ narrative. The former Union Minister has been seeking 27 per cent reservation both in job and education for OBC and SEBC communities in Odisha. His expulsion from Congress in 2019 also followed a row which he had kicked up by demanding that the party appoints a Dalit as Chief Minister if it wins the Assembly election.

The Balasore parliamentary constituency comprises Badasahi in Mayurbhanj and Jaleswar, Bhograi, Basta, Balasore, Remuna and Nilagiri Assembly segments in Balasore. In 2019, BJD won four of these Assembly seats, while BJP pocketed three. The equation has since changed with BJD wresting the Balasore Sadar seat from BJP in a by-election while it has expelled its Remuna MLA Sudanshu Parida, forcing him to have Independent status.

Amid the shifting political landscape, it is, however, difficult to gauge where the voters would tilt when the polling is held on June 1.

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