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Odisha Elections 2024: Will Lotus Bloom In Aska Lok Sabha Seat?

By
OB Bureau

Berhampur/Bhubaneswar: Having remained a pocket borough of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) for the last 25 years, Aska Lok Sabha constituency in Odisha’s Ganjam is witnessing a fierce battle this time. While BJD has sent youth leader Ranjita Sahu to the battlefield as its warrior in Aske, Bhatatiya Janata Party (BJP) has renominated Anita Subhadarshini for the politically sensitive seat, considered the political birthplace of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. While Congress has nominated Debakanta Sharma, it is going to be a straight fight between BJP and BJD this time.

Biju Legacy

Aska has very close connections with legendary Biju Patnaik as the late leader represented the constituency in Lok Sabha. Following his demise, his son Naveen Patnaik was elected from the seat by winning the by-election held in 1997. It was Aska where Naveen had his political baptism. He was also elected to the Lok Sabha from Aska in 1998 and 1999 before confining his political activities to the state. Therefore, it is a prestige battle for the regional party. However, BJP is making all out efforts as it wants lotus to bloom in the BJD bastion.

BJP Onslaught

Ever since its formation, BJD has been maintaining its grip over Aska. However, this time BJP is leaving no stone unturned in its bid to smash the dominance of the regional party and unfurl saffron flag in Naveen’s home ground. BJP heavyweights, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, have mounted a frontal attack on the CM on his home turf. Addressing a poll rally in Berhampur, Modi went to the extent of announcing the ‘expiry’ date of Naveen government in Odisha while seeking votes for Anita. Similarly, Amit Shah launched a stinging attack on the ruling BJD over a host of issues, including free rice scheme, Ayushman Bharat Yojana and missing key of Puri Jagannath Temple’s Ratna Bhandar. He slammed Naveen alleging his government is being run by a handful of bureaucrats and outside elements.

BJD Retaliation

BJD, on its part, is making all out efforts to protect its fort and prevent an aggressive BJP from snatching the seat. During campaign in Aska, Naveen fired salvos at BJP accusing the opposition party of spreading lies and shedding crocodile tears for the people of the state. Reminding people of Naveen’s political birth in Aska, BJD is highlights the welfare schemes, including BSKY and Mission Shakti programmes, being implemented by the state government.

Will Rebels Spoil BJD Pitch?

Resentment in BJD cadre over selection of candidates for Assembly seats has come to the fore in most parts of the Parliamentary constituency, including Kabisuryanagar and Khallikote. Senior leader Hara Prasad Sahu had strongly opposed Kabisuryanagar MLA Latika Pradhan. BJD subsequently managed him by nominating his daughter Ranjita as Lok Sabha candidate. Many leaders and workers quit the ruling party opposing the decision to renominate Khallikote MLA Suryamani Baidya. Similarly, Aska legislator Manjula Swain also faced stiff resistance. Rebels may become a major cause of headache for the regional party.

BJD Vs BJP

BJD candidate Ranjita’s father Hara Prasad has a strong organisational base in Aska and he wields considerable influence in the area. Similarly, BJP nominee Anita happens to be the daughter of late Ramakrushna Patnaik, who was an influential leader of the erstwhile Janata Dal and then BJD and BJP. In 2019 elections, Anita gave a tough fight to BJD’s Pramila Bisoyi, who was elected. Anita polled over three lakh votes, while BJP’s vote share increased to over 26 per cent. A keen contest is likely to take place between the two this time. Congress, which did not field its candidate, supported CPI’s Ramakrushna Panda in Aska last time. The grand old party has fielded Debakanta Sharma this time. However, Congress lacks support base in the Assembly segments under Aska Lok Sabha constituency, except Sanakhemundi.

Whiff Of Change In Aska

Hinjili, which happens to be Naveen Patnaik’s Assembly constituency, comes under Aska Parliamentary seat. Therefore, Naveen is a major factor in Aska fight. However, an anti-incumbency wave against the ruling BJD appears to be prevailing in the state this time. BJP is trying its best to bring change in Naveen’s home turf. The saffron party is likely to benefit immensely from Amit Shah’s poll rally held in the area. Moreover, Pradeep Panigrahi, who was once considered a close aide of the BJD supremo, is now in BJP camp. The saffron party may gain considerably from his presence.

All the seven Assembly segments under Aska Lok Sabha constituency are in Ganjam district. While the ruling BJD had won six Assembly seats – Polasara, Kabisuryanagar, Khallikote, Aska, Sorada and Hinjili, Congress bagged only Sanakhemundi.

OB Bureau

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