Odisha Elections: BJD Makes Kusha Apat Keonjhar Dist President & Sanatan Mahakud Candidate For Champua Assembly Seat

Bhubaneswar: Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Saturday appointed Kusha Apat as Keonjhar district president, while nominating Sanatan Mahakud as the party’s candidate for politically-sensitive Champua assembly seat.

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The move assumes enormous political significance as it comes ahead of the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the state. Both Kusha and Sanatan, considered highly influential in mineral-rich Keonjhar, are linked to mining business.

BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who announced Sanatan’s candidature from Champua, also appointed Kusha as the party’s Keonjhar district unit.

The contest for the Champua assembly seat in Keonjhar district, the heartland of iron ore mining in Odisha, has always been a keenly watched one, particularly because of the profiles of candidates like Sanatan and Kusha.

The two leaders have influence over more than half the state’s iron ore production. In Odisha, elections are held simultaneously for the Lok Sabha and state assembly.

Former MLA Sanatan Mahakud has been playing a decisive role in electoral politics in tribal-dominated Keonjhar district. In 2019 elections, the ruling BJD won both Champua Assembly and Keonjhar Lok Sabha seats with the support of Sanatan. As per his recommendation, BJD fielded Minakshi Mahanta in Champua Assembly constituency and Chandrani Murmu, a first-timer, in Keonjhar Lok Sabha seat. Both emerged victorious with the blessings of Sanatan as BJD won Champua Assembly seat for the first time.

Apart from having a strong organisational base in Keonjhar, Sanatan has his own vote bank in the region. He enjoys the support of sizeable section of the electorate because of the financial and other assistance that he has been extending to the people in need. His nomination by the ruling BJD is bound to pose a formidable challenge to BJP.

In 2009 elections, Jitu Patnaik had won from Champua defeating Sanatan by a slender margin of 145 votes. However, Sanatan contested as independent in 2014 and emerged victorious, while Kusha Apat came second.

Money and resources from mines have been playing a significant role in Champua located in the mineral-rich belt. The entire area has come to be known for high-voltage campaign by Bollywood stars in recent elections. Independent candidates have won in three of the last five Assembly elections in Champua.

Kusha and Sanatan own no mines, but with their interest in transport business and hold over labourers in the area always played a significant role in all activities in the region.

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