Odisha Elections 2024: Fight Between Veteran Leader & Political Greenhorn In Dhenkanal LS Seat

Dhenkanal: With poll fever gradually warming up in Odisha, Dhenkanal Lok Sabha constituency is poised to witness a keen contest between a veteran leader and a political greenhorn. While the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is keen to retain the seat, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making all out efforts to spread saffron wave in the constituency. While these two political parties have already announced their candidates for the seat, Congress is yet to name its nominee.

In a surprise move, the ruling BJD has fielded Abinash Samal as its candidate in Dhenkanal Lok Sabha seat. Abinash, considered a political greenhorn, will be fighting his maiden electoral battle banking heavily on the popularity of BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. However, despite being a novice in politics, 36-year-old Abinash hails from an influential political family.

He happens to be the nephew of sitting BJD MLA from Dhenkanal Sudhir Samal, who is considered a heavyweight in the region. Sudhir himself introduced his nephew to the regional party in the run up to the elections. A medical doctor by profession, Abinash has done his post graduate degree from Maharajah Institute of Medical Sciences at Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh after completing MBBS from a medical college in Odisha. He has also been looking after his family business for the last few years.

As Abinash was nominated, sitting BJD MP from the constituency Mahesh Sahoo, who was denied a party ticket from the seat this time, has strong hold in Angul, Talcher and Pallahara Assembly segments. There are speculations that Mahesh may be fielded from an Assembly seat this time. The regional party appears to be heavily relying on young and first-time voters to ensure Abinash’s victory.

The BJD candidate will take on senior BJP leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Rudra Narayan Pani in the battlefield. In 2019, Pani was defeated by BJD candidate Mahesh Sahoo by a slender margin of 35,412 votes. Sahoo had won the Dhenkanal Lok Sabha seat with a vote share of 46 per cent, while Rudra secured 43 per cent votes. Former union minister KP Singhdeo of the Congress came a distant third by securing only seven per cent of votes in 2019 polls.

While BJP has already announced the name of Pani as the party’s candidate for Dhenkanal, the Congress is yet to reveal its nominee for the LS seat. There are seven Assembly seats under Dhenkanal Parliamentary constituency.

Observers are of the view that it may not be smooth sailing for Abinash since there is a sympathy wave in favour of Rudra who is seen as a luckless candidate by voters in the region. The senior leader will be giving another shot at winning the Dhenkanal LS seat after three unsuccessful attempts. To prevent BJP march in the constituency, Abinash will have to use the political clout of his uncle Sudhir, a two-time MLA who will also be fighting the Assembly election from Dhenkanal Sadar seat on a BJD ticket.

Pani also has several limitations. Despite being active at the grassroots level, he has not been able to impress voters as a Rajya Sabha MP from 2004 to 2006 and 2006 to 2012. In 2014, he was defeated by Tathagat Satpathy by a margin of over 1.30 lakh votes.

As per political observers, BJD continues to maintain its edge in the constituency despite Narendra Modi wave sweeping different areas.

The Assembly constituencies that fall under Dhenkanal parliamentary constituency are – Dhenkanal, Hindol (SC), Kamakhyanagar, Parjanga, Pallahara, Talcher and Angul. BJD had won all the Assembly seats in 2019. However, political equations in the constituency have undergone tremendous changes over the last five years and one has to wait and see if BJD will be able to retain the Lok Sabha seat.

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