JAJPUR: Following frequent poll debacles in Dharmasala, Congress is likely to fall back on its old guard in the prestigious constituency in the ensuing Assembly elections.
The grand old party is likely to field former legislator and senior leader Kangali Charan Panda from the seat.
The Dharmasala Assembly seat has traditionally been a non-Congress bastion. But, Panda, a soft spoken and popular leader, won the seat by defeating the then Janata Party (JP) veteran and royal family scion Guru Charan Tikayat in the 1980 Assembly elections. He retained the seat by defeating Tikayat again in 1985.
In course of time, due to changes in the political scenario in the State, Congress lost the Assembly election and the then Janata Dal led by Biju Patnaik won 123 seats including Dharmasala in 1990. In the 1995 Assembly polls, Biju Patnaik-led Janata Dal did not fare well in the state. Still, Congress lost the seat. Several factors were responsible for Congress’ frequent defeats in Dharmasala Assembly constituency. One of them is believed to be Panda’s neglect by the party. There was every chance for Congress to redeem itself in the 1995 Assembly elections. But, it fielded a new face Srinath Mishra, a non-local, who could not deliver in the polls.
The situation had worsened to the extent that Congress lost its deposit in the elections. When Mishra was denied ticket by the party, he contested on a TMC ticket and contributed to the defeat of the grand old party in the 2000 Assembly polls.
In 2004, 2009 and 2014 Assembly elections, Congress bit the dust due to ‘Naveen wave’. “Kangali Charan Panda is the lone warrior in Dharmasala Congress. He can pose a formidable challenge to the wealthy BJD candidate Pranab Balabantray here. Besides Congress votes, he possesses a pocket vote of over 25,000 in the constituency,” said Biswanath Panda, a senior Congress worker.
A political observer said that Congress activists will not accept an outsider as their candidate and it was proved in the 1995 Assembly elections.