Odisha is among the 4 states going for simultaneous assembly and general elections on April 11, along with Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunanchal Pradesh. Hence, the general elections hold special significance here as voting pattern will be an amalgamation of local as well as national issues. After the coalition between BJP and BJD broke in 2009, BJD has been quite sturdy in holding their fort. At peak Modi wave in 2014, which saw a single party passing the simple majority mark after 30 years, Naveen’s charisma and electoral acumen totally steamrolled all competition and anti incumbency whatsoever. BJD won 20 out of 21 seats and the only seat that BJP’s Jual Oram won saw a slender margin of 18,829 votes.
After Modi government came to power, they have been trying to gain grounds in Odisha and West Bengal which can make up for seats they may lose elsewhere in North and Western India. With both parties claiming the Lion’s share in the upcoming general elections in Odisha, we have tried to provide you a constituency wise ring side view.
South And Central Odisha
Nabarangpur possibly can be one constituency where Congress may have a little edge. Traditionally a Congress stronghold, it went to BJP in 1999 and 2004. It came back to Congress’s Pradeep Majhi in 2009. Incumbent, Balabhadra Majhi won by a margin of a meagre 2042 votes against Pradeep in 2014. However, Balabhadra Majhi was denied a ticket by BJD this time.
He resigned from the party and joined BJP. He is contesting on a BJP ticket. Pradeep is said to be close to central leadership and Rahul Gandhi. It is rumoured that, Pradeep is the one calling the shots on party ticket distribution in South Odisha. Many party biggies including veteran and MLA from Jeypore, Taraprasad Bahinipati are not happy with Pradeep for alleged unfairness in ticket distribution.
Koraput has the distinction of having its ex-MP, Giridhar Gamango, winning 9 Lok Sabha election on Congress ticket. In 1999, Hema Gamango, wife of Giridhar Gamango won on a BJD ticket. However, the Congress strongman has now shifted his camp to BJP, though he isn’t contesting the election.
Last time, he lost to BJD candidate Jhina Hikaka by 20,000 votes. BJD has given ticket to incumbent Jhina Hikaka’s wife Kaushalya Hikaka. Congress’s candidate is former Rayagada MLA Late Rama Chandra Ulaka’s son Saptagiri Ulaka. BJP has brought in disgruntled ex BJD MP Jairam Pangi who represented Koraput between 2009-14, with active support from Gamango.
Kalahandi PC has been an equal opportunity provider in terms of triangular contest that Odisha sees. It was a BJP stronghold during the times of Bikram Keshari Deo, royal and father of incumbent Arka Keshari Deo. In 2009, it went to Congress’s Bhakta Charan Das. After the death of Bikram Keshari, son Arka joined BJD and won in 2014. He has been denied a ticket this time.
BJD has brought in Dharamgarh MLA and royal Pushpendra Singh Deo. BJP has reposed faith in state president Basanta Panda while Congress has put up its old warhorse Bhakta Charan Das.
This PC is going to see an interesting battle. Achyuta Samanta, educationist, philanthropist, current Rajya Sabha MP and social worker – I just stopped from naming Toni Stark – has been propped up by BJD. BJP has brought in 3 times MP from coastal district up North Balasore who was a former Indian Railways officer. Swain fell out with BJP in 2010, formed his own party “Utkala Bharata”, and joined back BJP as recently as last week. Achyuta Samanta is the chairman of the largest private deemed university in Odisha which also runs Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS). It’s a free schooling and boarding facility for 25,000 underprivileged tribal kids; runs a mega kitchen, which was featured in a Nat Geo series with the same name; provides free food and boarding to the students.
He recently courted controversy by announcing to open a Christian only school in Kandhamal. Kandhamal is the hotbed of missionary activities in Odisha. in 2009, missionary activists killed Swami Achyutananda Saraswati, who was working against conversion. This started wide spread riots. Sangh has been quite active in this region working against rampant conversion. Kharabela’s nomination has Green signal from Sangh as well as Jalaspeta Ashram, which was established by Swami Achyutananda.
CM’s home turf. BJD’s stronghold since 1998. Naveen Patnaik himself was MP from Aska for 3 terms before he became CM. Incumbent Late Ladu Kishore Swain died of a Kidney ailment in February this year. BJD has sprung a surprise by nominating Pramila Bisoi, a women Self Help Group worker as its candidate.
This also cements BJD’s position on 33% women quota. BJP’s Anita Subhadarshini is also making her election debut; however, she isn’t new to politics. She hails from a political family being daughter of Rama Krushna Patnaik, ex minister and MLA. Congress has not decided on any candidate till now.
Geographically, next to Aska. In fact both belong to Ganjam district. The only district in Odisha to have 2 parliamentary constituencies. BJD denied ticket to its 2 time MP actor-turned-politician, Siddhant Mahapatra. BJD’s Chandra Shekhar Sahu was ex Congress MP in 2004. BJP’s state secretary Bhrugu Baxipatra, who is also ex MLA of Jeypore has been given the party ticket from Berhampur.
West and North Odisha
Battle Royale. BJP’s Sangeeta Singh Deo is Kalikesh’s sister-in-law. She won Balangir PC in 1998, 1999 and 2004. Since then, it has been Kalikesh’s fiefdom. Her husband KV Singh Deo is ex BJP state chief and a party senior while Kalikesh’s father AU Singhdeo is a BJD stalwart. Incidentally, Kalikesh is the only sitting MP of BJD from Western and Souther Odisha who has been given ticket in 2019.
Prasanna Acharya is a BJD veteran. Won Sambalpur Lok Sabha PC in 1998 and 1999. Bargarh PC didn’t exist then. Was elected to Odisha assembly from Redhakhol which comes under Sambalpur PC, in 2009. Is part of RS since 2016. His nephew is contesting Bargarh assembly seat this time. CM Naveen Patnaik is contesting Bijepur AC which comes under Bargarh PC. BJP did spring a surprise in Bargarh and Sambalpur, which some term as a disastrous move. VHP long timer Subash Chauhan, who lost Bargarh on BJP ticket in 2014, had the narrowest margin among all BJP candidates in Odisha. Polled 33.12% vote and lost by a mere 11,178 votes.
In fact, he polled maximum votes among all BJP candidates in Odisha, more than the only BJP candidate who won, Jual Oram. However, BJP decided to field Suresh Pujari, who contested from Sambalpur in 2014 from Bargarh this time. He is a national secretary of BJP. Subash Chauhan has since joined BJD and has took 9 zilla parishad chairman along with him. One reason political observers are attributing behind this surprising move is, Sambalpur AC candidate Jay Narayan Mishra and Suresh Pujari don’t gel very well. To avoid any possible infighting, BJP decided to shift Suresh Pujari to Bargarh. May 23 will tell us if this precautionary move will backfire or not.
Nalini Kanta Pradhan is a ex Secretary, works department, who joined BJD in 1st week of March. He is attributed with some of the major infrastructure work BJD government has undertaken including 2 bridges over Mahanadi river in Sambalpur district. He also drew flak for the inordinate delay in Bomikhal over bridge in Bhubaneswar which caused couple of deaths due to poor workmanship.
BJP has moved Deogarh royal and incumbent MLA Nitesh Gang Deb to Sambalpur PC. He was earlier with Congress and had moved to BJP before 2014 general elections. He is considered to be very popular in Deogarh and adjacent areas. Polled around 50% votes in 2014 assembly elections.
This seat is going to see a triangular contest. While BJD true to its 33% women reservation plank has given ticket to Congress strong man and former CM Hemanand Biswal’s daughter Sunita Biswal, Congress has brought in Birmitrapur MLA George Tirkey. George, earlier an independent who also contested from Samata Kranti Dal, recently joined Congress. He has major influence over Christian votes. BJP has again reposed faith in union minister Jual Oram. While Jual is strong in Bonai and Talasara, George will influence Birmitrapur. Sunita’s father Hemanand is a Sundargara town local and enjoys popular support there.
The 2 urban constituencies in Rourkela city, Rourkela and Raghunathpali can well be the decider in this hotly contested PC which incidentally is the only PC which BJP won in 2014. BJP MLA from Rourkela, Dilip Ray resigning from the party on non fulfilment of promises made by PM himself on super speciality medical college and hospital and Brahmani Bridge upgradation are issues that may play spoiler to BJP’s plan in Rourkela. Dilip’s recent visit to Naveen Nivas has set the rumour mills spinning.
Mineral rich constituency where the most affluent MLAs of Odisha come from. In fact, during mining boom, 3 of India’s top 4 tax payers where from Keonjhar. Even with so much money in play, the district has not seen any major turnaround in its fortune. Last time, BJD surprised everyone by announcing Shakuntala Laguri as its candidate at the last moment who went on to win this seat for her party.
BJP still reposes faith in Anant Nayak who won Keonjhar in 1999 and 2004 but has not seen any political success since then though he continues to contest election from the same seat. BJD is still undecided and holds its card close to its chest though it’s rumoured that Champua MLA Sanatan Mahakud has convinced Naveen Patnaik to field Chandrani Murmu. She is the grand daughter of Congress ex-MP from Keonjhar Harihar Soren.
Scam tainted BJD MP Rama Chandra Hansdah, who spent several months in jail after he was arrested by CBI in 2014 for the chit fund scam has been dropped. BJD has brought in Dr. Debasish Marandi, who joined BJD in 2017 after quitting NALCO as senior medical officer. BJP has named RSS activist Bisweswar Tudu as its candidate.
The northern most coastal district of Odisha which shares its boundary with Bengal. BJP has again fielded long time RSS man and twice Nilagiri MLA Pratap Sarangi, widely seen as a very honest and upright man. BJD, despite facing anti incumbency has gone ahead with Rabindra Jena. Congress has fielded state president Niranjan Patnaik’s son Nabajyoti Patnaik after ex MP Shrikant Jena was dismissed from the party.
BJD has fielded a new face in Bhadrak this time, Smt Manjulata Mandal. After 6 time MP and one of the founding member of BJD, who worked closely with Biju Patnaik, Arjun Sethi was denied to meet CM at Naveen Nivas, he in a scathing letter, submitted his resignation from the party. Hours later, he joined BJP and the party rewarded him by fielding his son Abhimanyu Sethi from Bhadrak.
This is going to be a battle between BJD’s organisational power with a new comer vs a disgruntled 6 times MP who is now with BJP. The equation has changed considerably in last few days after BJP’s announcement.
Jajpur always had a BJD MP since the party’s inception in 1997 and most of party’s stalwarts including current generation of MLAs who call the shots within the party are from Jajpur. Rita Tarai, current MP from BJD has been denied ticket and a new face Sharmistha Sethi has been nominated. Ex-MP Mohan Jena, who was expecting a ticket has quit BJD alleging irregularity in ticket distribution. BJP’s Amiya Mallick, who came 3rd in 2014 has been asked to contest from Jajpur again.
One of the most interesting battle of Odisha that has the nation’s eye set on it. The fall out of Baijayant Panda with Naveen Patnaik grabbed massive media limelight. After 9 months of delay, Jay Panda joined BJP and was appointed national vice president as well as national spokesperson. Baijayant Panda has been touring the district extensively through out his tenure. His joining of BJP was followed by induction of some senior disgruntled BJD party members. Naveen being as vindictive as he is known to be, will definitely try to obliterate Panda’s political career. He has brought in current Rajya Sabha MP and a very popular actor across the state, Anubhav Mohanty to contest against Panda.
Though, some say the battle is not evenly poised as Anubhav has never contested a direct election and has no base in Kendrapara, knowing Naveen, he must have given it a lot of thought before fielding him. Also, star powers have done wonders in Indian elections before and can not be overlooked. Senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra, a local strongman, who recently left BJP has rejoined after much cajoling from Panda and adds to his firepower.
Sitting MP Kulamani Samal has been denied party ticket as BJD, sticking to its 33% women’s quota, has fielded Tirtol MLA Dr. Rajashree Mallick from Jagatsinghpur. Jagatsinghpur is also a Congress stronghold where the Biswal brothers duo, Ranjib Biswal and Chiranjib Biswal, son of ex Dy CM Basanta Biswal have entrenched their roots. This remains the only constituency where BJP is yet to announce their candidate.
After current MP Tathagata Satapathy resigned from the party and announced that he won’t be contesting elections henceforth, BJD is still undecided on Dhenkanal. BJP is depending on ex Rajya Sabha MP Rudra Narayan Pani while Congress has brought in its old war horse, ex MP and former union minister KP Singh Deo. It will be interesting to see how the 2nd innings in Deo’s political career plays out.
One of the most prestigious seat of Odisha. BJD, after an inordinate delay, has reposed faith on 5 times MP Bhartuhari Mahatab. BJP has deployed former IPS and Odisha DG Prakash Mishra. Mishra shares an interesting history with Naveen Patnaik. While serving as Odisha Police DG, he was all set to be CBI’s chief after Ranjit Sinha’s retirement when Naveen’s government filed a vigilance case against him.
Mishra moved to HC against this and HC gave government a severe dressing down to Naveen’s government to have harassed officer of Mishra’s stature without any prima facie evidence. But by then, it was too late and Mishra missed the bus. He was appointed CRPF DG later before he retired. Prakash Mishra enjoys a clean image while Bhartuhari is a long timer and experienced politician.
This is going to be a face off between ex bureaucrats. BJD has fielded former IPS and Mumbai top cop Arup Patnaik, who joined BJD last year and has been given the charge of Biju Yuva Vahini, BJD’s “Youth Volunteer” programme. BJP has brought in former IAS Aparajita Sarangi, a well known face in Bhubaneswar urban household.
Before moving to central cadre, known as a no-nonsense officer, she brought in some visible change in public sphere while serving in different roles as BMC commissioner, secretary of mass education department and director of mission Shakti, BJD’s government’s flagship scheme for women emancipation.
Apart from Kendrapara, this is another PC in Odisha, which is getting some national attention, courtesy, BJP national spokesperson and a familiar face on TV, Dr. Sambit Patra is contesting against BJD’s Pinaki Mishra, senior advocate in SC and 2 times MP from Puri. Congress has fielded ex-journalist and anchor Satya Nayak. Among all ACs, BJP is weakest in Puri and Pipili. Yesterday’s assembly ticket announcement from BJD cemented that further when BJD yet again gave ticket to Pipili strongman Pradip Maharathi despite some serious allegations against him for which he had to resign from his minister post. Maheswar Mohanty, MLA from Puri enjoys good popularity among the Jagannath sevayat community and the Telugu fisher folks.
Jayanta Sarangi, ex-chairman of Puri municipality and BJD party member, has joined BJP and may be able to salvage some pride for BJP in Puri town. The other 5 ACs are equally poised. If Lalitendu Mahapatra and Pratyusha Rajeswari can tilt the game in favour of BJP from Bramhagiri and Nayagarh, Puri might be a close contest.
With leaders from both BJP and BJD going all guns blazing, a hot, humid and long summer awaits Odisha’s electorate who will decide the fate of 21 Lok Sabha and 147 Vidhan Sabha seats between 11th to 29th April. We wish all the candidates all the luck and more importantly good health who are going to campaign in the blistering heat for the next 1 month.