Odisha Elections 2024: Can The Maharaja Reclaim His Lost Crown In Patnagarh?

Balangir: Odisha’s Patnagarh Assembly constituency in Balangir district is gearing up for an intriguing electoral battle between Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Kanak Vardhan (KV) Singh Deo and Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) Saroj Kumar Meher.

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A five-time BJP MLA, KV Singh Deo is a member of the erstwhile royal family of the area and a titular Maharaja. He was the Minister of Industry and Urban Development and Public Enterprise from 2000 to 2004 and 2004 to 2009 respectively. Naveen Patnaik’s BJD was a part of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) then and BJP was a partner in the coalition government in the state.

KV’s wife Sangeeta Singh Deo is the sitting BJP MP from Balangir and is also in the poll fray for the Lok Sabha to which she has been elected four times (1998, 1999, 2004 and 2019).

While Sangeeta won the 2019 Lok Sabha election after facing defeat twice in 2009 and 2014 to another royal member of her family but rival BJD Kalikesh Singh Deo, her husband lost the 2019 Assembly elections to BJD’s Saroj Meher after winning continuously from the constituency since 1995.

A BJP bastion that it was, BJD’s Meher tasted victory in Patnagarh in 2019. Since then BJD has fared well in the area with impressive shows in panchayat and municipal elections.

Both Singh Deo and Meher are in the poll fray again fighting against each other and trying to influence and woo voters.

Singh Deo is meeting people with a list of tasks not done by the BJD and also slinging mud on the regional party for swindling money meant for scholarships and pensions. In all this, he however is not forgetting to list out his won achievements in the five terms he served as a legislator.

Meher is also leaving no stone unturned. He too is listing out his party’s successful endeavours and the opponent’s failed projects and promises. Meher’s argument is the area saw development work after 25 years when BJD came to power and the saffron party’s Singh Deo was thrown out. He claims progress in health, education, transport and also tourism in the last five years. BJD’s mission is development of the state and his he says is the development of Patnagarh.

Despite losing in the last elections, KV Singh Deo was always seen in the constituency actively engaging with people and issues. He even did not hesitate to confront with officials and people’s representatives to resolve many of his people’s issues. The anti-incumbency wave for BJD, his strong connect with people, and the “Modi wave” may go in the BJP nominee’s favour.

On the other hand, when Meher was campaigning last year, he was new in the election fray and took advantage of the anti-incumbency factor counting their five-time MP’s failures and unachieved tasks. But this time he will be judged based on his work and deliverables in the last few years. Mere promises will not work and his performance will also be evaluated.

Apart from BJP and BJD, the only other candidate who can perhaps get some votes in Patnagarh is the Congress candidate Anil Meher. But the last time Congress won from the constituency, was way back in 1985 when Sushil Kumar Prusty had won the elections. In 1990, he lost to Janata Dal candidate Bibekanand Meher who had won from the seat in 1977 as well.

Patnagarh is going to polls in the second phase on May 20 and all eyes are on the dethroned Maharaja. Will he be crowned again?

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