Odisha Elections 2024: Why BJP Has Kept Tickets For 3 Lok Sabha Seats On Hold?

Bhubaneswar: The BJP stopped short of announcing candidates for all 21 Lok Sabha seats in Odisha while releasing it fifth list. And the recent political developments have added to the confusion over the party’s nominee selection for Cuttack, Kandhamal and Jajpur Lok Sabha constituencies, considered to be BJD bastions.


Cuttack Lok Sabha Seat

Six-time MP Bhartruhari Mahtab quit BJD soon after BJP Odisha president Manmohan Samal on March 22 confirmed the saffron party would fight the upcoming elections in Odisha alone. The alliance talks had earlier put Bhartruhari on a sticky wicket as there were reports that the ruling BJD, which was insisting on keeping the Cuttack Lok Sabha constituency in the seat-sharing deal, might drop him for his alleged saffron leaning.

So, will he again enter the poll fray from the same constituency albeit on a BJP ticket this time?

Bhartruhari, who has been the steady face of BJD from Cuttack having been elected six times from the Lok Sabha constituency since 1998, had been creating ripples in political circles with his growing proximity to BJP. His meeting with Amit Shah in New Delhi in January fuelled speculation about him joining the saffron party ahead of the upcoming elections.

Shah was also chief guest at the 75th anniversary celebration of Odia daily Prajatantra, of which Bhartruhari is the Editor, at Cuttack in 2022. Union Education Minister and senior BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan in March 2023 also hailed him as Bhishma Pitamah of Odisha politics. “I call Bhartruhari Mahtab grandsire Bhishma. He has brought glory to Odisha by becoming MP six times. Just like Bhishma Pitamah, he will draw curtains on his political career only when he wants to. But making statements like he will not be able to win even a councillor post was uncalled for,” he said while referring to a statement made by a BJD leader against him.

He, however, is yet to join the BJP.

The name of Dr Purna Chandra Mohapatra, who was the surprise pick of  Samal’s team of 10 vice-presidents parachuted to the top of the Odisha BJP organisational hierarchy soon after being inducted into the party, has also been doing the rounds for the Cuttack Lok Sabha seat. Mohapatra had retired as Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology from Srirama Chandra Bhanja (SCB) Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack, in 2018.

Amid the changing political dynamics, there are also talks about another sitting BJD MP, who may follow the footsteps of Bhartruhari, lobbying for a BJP ticket from the seat.

Kandhamal Lok Sabha Seat

The BJP has improved its votes share in the constituency by finishing second in the last two elections. However, confusion persists over the likely candidate with Kharabela Swain, whom the party fielded in 2019 polls, having queered the pitch for the saffron party by announcing that he would contest the elections from Balasore Lok Sabha seat as an Independent. He expressed his resentment after the party renominated siting MP Pratap Sarangi from Balasore.

Kharabela was hopeful of a ticket from the constituency since his return to BJP in 2019 after spending a decade unsuccessfully trying to establish his own party, Utkal Bharat. He was elected to Lok Sabha thrice from Balasore on BJP ticket from before he quit the party by charting a different political path.

He lost to BJD’s Achyuta Samanta by around 1.5 lakh votes in 2019.

Will BJP leadership be able to pacify Kharabela and convince him to contest from Kandhamal again is a million dollar question. Also in the race are party vice-president Lekhashree Samantsinghar, and Sukanta Kumar Panigrahi, who finished third in the 2014 elections.

Jajpur Lok Sabha Seat

The BJP has tried several permutations and combinations in the last five years to make inroads into this bastion of BJD but without much success. Party nominee for the last two elections, Amiya Kanta Mallick, has been able to increase the vote share from 15.37% in 2014 to 40.5% in 2019. If sources are to be believe, he is not keen to contest the elections from Jajpur this time and has instead been lobbying for a ticket from Binjharpur Assembly seat.

Amid this confusion, the name of Rabinarayan Behera, former director of National Informatics Centre, Odisha unit, has come to the fore. Will the party field him instead of Mallick? Or, spring a surprise?

The haze will clear only after the BJP announces the names of the remaining 3 candidates.

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