Odisha Elections 2024: Rift In BJD May Give BJP An Edge In Keonjhar

Keonjhar: What appeared to be a three-way fight in Keonjhar Lok Sabha constituency, has seemingly boiled down to a straight contest between Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The ruling BJD has fielded Dhanurjaya Sidu in the tribal-dominated constituency, while BJP has nominated Ananta Nayak and Congress Binod Bihari Nayak. Besides the Narendra Modi wave sweeping the country, the BJP nominee may also benefit from the anti-incumbency mood in the state. Though the saffron party had won only one Assembly seat under Keonjhar Lok Sabha segment in 2019 elections, it had put up an impressive show at most places. On the other hand, groupism and infighting has become a major headache for BJD. Amid all these, Congress votes are likely to play a decisive role in the fight between BJD and BJP in 2024 polls.

Internal Rift Worries BJD

Inner party tussle in mineral area of Champua in the constituency has become a major cause of headache for the ruling BJD. Alleged rift among Sanatan Mahakud, Kusha Apat and Dhanurjaya Sidu has become a hot topic of discussion in the state. Champua MLA Minakshi Mahanta has been staying away from BJD programmes after being denied ticket this time. Her supporters are said to be moving towards BJP. Sanatan Mahakud is managing the campaign with his own organisation and he is not to be seen with MP candidate Dhanurjaya. Kusha Apat, who played a major role in strengthening BJD base in Champua, is unhappy after the party fielded Sanatan in Champua Assembly seat. Though he has been appointed the district president of BJD, Kusha is still upset. All these may have an adverse impact on BJD’s poll prospects in Keonjhar.

Will Lotus Bloom?

BJP candidate Ananta Nayak was elected to Lok Sabha from Keonjhar in 1999 and 2004 elections. Though he lost the subsequent polls, the saffron party decided to repeat him for Lok Sabha for the sixth time. Ananta, who has good rapport with national leaders, was a member of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) and also its vice chairperson. Apart from his own organisational strength, he is deriving immense benefit from the wave in favour of Modi. A host of Union Ministers and top BJP leaders have been conducting marathon campaign to garner support for Ananta.

Power Of Congress Votes

Congress had initially nominated Mohan Hembram for Keonjhar seat. However, following mass resignation of its workers in the area, the grand old party dropped him and fielded Binod Bihari Nayak, who had contested the Assembly polls from Patana in 2019. Armed with his strong organisational base, Binod has been reaching out to the voters by highlighting problems such as growing unemployment, lack of drinking water, road connectivity and healthcare facilities. In the last two elections, the traditional votes of Congress had slipped into BJD’s pocket. However, Congress is likely to bag its committed votes under Binod’s leadership this time, which may be proved harmful for the ruling BJD.

Complex Assembly Equations

BJD had won six of the seven Assembly seats under Keonjhar Lok Sabha constituency in last elections. BJP had emerged victorious only in Keonjhar Assembly segment. However, a highly complicated scenario has emerged this time following a number of changes in the political configurations in the constituency. After being sidelined, Premchand Nayak had quit BJD and joined BJP with the hope of getting saffron party ticket to contest the polls. However, his hopes were shattered and all eyes are set on his next move to see which candidate he is going to back. His support in Telkoi area will play a significant role in shaping the final outcome in the Lok Sabha constituency. Similarly, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik is contesting from Ghasipura Assembly seat at an independent candidate. His presence in the fray is likely to upset the voting pattern if he manages to garner support from rebels in all political parties. Likewise, Bhagirathi Sethi of Anandpur has resigned from BJD and it may also affect the poll outcome.

Keonjhar Lok Sabha constituency comprises the Assembly segments of Telkoi, Ghasipura, Anandpur, Patana, Keonjhar, Champua and Karanjia. Most of these segments will witness a direct fight between BJP and BJP though Congress is likely to put up a good show in some areas.

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