Kendrapara: It has turned out to be the mother of electoral battles in Odisha in 2019 as BJP national vice-president Baijayant Panda is engaged in a keen contest with BJD leader and cinestar Anubav Mohanty for Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat.
What is at stake is not a parliamentary seat but a lot more for both the ruling BJD and its principal challenger, the BJP. Both sides have made it a high-octane prestige issue with PM Narendra Modi campaigning for Baijayant and CM Naveen Patnaik, making an exception, stayed overnight and canvassed for votes for his party’s nominee.
As the constituents of Kendrapara parliamentary seat, which comprises Aul, Rajnagar, Kendrapara, Patkura, Mahakalpada, Salepur and Mahanga, vote on Monday, all eyes will be on Baijayant. Not only is he trying to defend his turf after winning two consecutive elections (2009 and 2014) on BJD ticket, but also trying to prove his mettle as a leader. Results of this election have the potential to make or mar his political fortunes. While victory could elevate his status in his new party, defeat could harm his political journey.
For the BJD, the running feud with Baijayant that started over two years ago following the 2017 panchayat elections, it is not only about retaining its bastion but also proving quite a few points, including the invincibility of Naveen.
In the run-up to the D-Day, Naveen and Baijayant have engaged in repeated verbal duels with the former accusing the latter of spreading rumours about his health. Baijayant has denied the allegations and instead trained his guns on CM’s private secretary V K Pandian.
While several senior BJD leaders have been electioneering for Anubhav and playing the Biju Patnaik card to woo the politically-conscious electorate, the BJP is attempting to consolidate the anti-BJD vote and leaving no stone unturned to ensure Panda comes out trumps. But if poll observers are to be believed, it’s a litmus test for Panda.
Among the assembly segments, BJD had won in four while Congress had pocketed three in 2014. The entry of BJP, riding on Baijayant, and Bijoy Mohapatra’s organisations, as a strong force has left Kendrapara politics interestingly poised.
Congress MP candidate Dharanidhar Nayak can also spring a few surprises. He got 3.92 lakh votes in 2014. The party has fielded three strong MLA candidates — Ganeswar Behera, Ansuman Mohanty and Debendra Sharma — from the constituency.