PARADIP: The ouster of local MLA Damodar Rout from BJD has triggered a rush for the ruling party ticket from Paradip Assembly constituency. With Rout, a two-time MLA from Paradip, no more in the ticket race, aspirants feel this is the best opportunity to enter the fray from BJD. Prominent among the aspirants are BJD’s urban unit president Sumant Biswal, Paradip Municipality chairman Basant Biswal, Rout’s son Sambit Routray, local MP Kulamani Samal and trade union leader Sanotsh Patnaik.
Samal and Patnaik are strong supporters of Rout’s bete noire Bishnu Das, who is the district BJD president and Deputy Chairman of State Planning Board. Movement of Das in Paradip has been restricted after local BJD leaders accused him of hatching a conspiracy to oust Rout from the ruling party. In order to avoid any controversy, Das has refrained from visiting the constituency.
On the other hand, the prospects of Routray getting the ruling party ticket have been clouded as his father continues his vitriolic attack against Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik on issues of corruption at different public meetings.
Another aspirant from the seat is Cuttack-Barabati MLA Debasish Samantaray who has intensified campaigning to make his presence felt in Paradip. In the recent past, he has organised a number of rallies, padyatras and public meeting in different areas of the constituency. However, Samantaray is facing stiff opposition from local BJD aspirants who treat him as a threat. A BJD supporter, on condition of anonymity, said locals are unwilling to accept the Cuttack-Barabati MLA because of several issues. A case is already pending in Orissa High Court against Samantaray over the death of five persons in a vehicle explosion near Kujang police station.
Rout, on the other hand, continues to enjoy immense popularity in the area despite being expelled from BJD. A local ruling party leader said Rout has sizeable vote base in Paradip Assembly segment. People still support the veteran leader because of his honesty and incorruptibility and also sympathise with him as they think he was unjustly removed from BJD by a conspiracy hatched by his rivals Das and Balikuda-Erasama MLA Prasant Muduli.
In Congress, Bapi Sarkhel and Pramod Kumar Jena are in the ticket race for the upcoming polls. Similarly, youth leader Sampad Swain and advocate Gatikrushan Satpathy are eyeing for the BJP ticket from Paradip.
In the last Assembly elections, Rout had defeated Congress candidate Sarkhel by a margin of 38,600 votes.