A Mass Leader, Lalatendu Wages Solitary Battle - The New Indian Express

A Mass Leader, Lalatendu Wages Solitary Battle

Published: 15th April 2014 11:33 AM

Last Updated: 15th April 2014 11:34 AM

It’s 12 noon and the sun is blazing. Thousands of people, mostly youths, are waiting since 8 am for their leader to arrive for the rally that would cover 40 km on the banks of Chilika lake in Bramhagiri Assembly constituency.

Three-time legislator and Congress nominee, Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra (Lulu), arrives in a Toyota Fortuner at Prayagi in Krushnaprasad block and the crowd goes berserk. The atmosphere suddenly changes from dullness and impatience out of hours of waiting to electrifying. His supporters surround the vehicle and there ensues a rat race to touch Mohapatra and slogans in his support rent the air as women at a distance welcome him with oloolation.

He gets out of the vehicle with great difficulty and climbs into an open jeep. His teenage daughter, Tanya, who was already there too gets into the jeep and the rally begins. It was clearly a show of strength as more than 1500 motorcycles and nearly 200 autos and cars were either ahead of his jeep or trailing him. Locals witnessing the show as the rally rolled out at a snail’s pace compared it to a similar rally undertaken by the sitting legislator of BJD, Sanjay Das Burma, on Sunday. Mohapatra’s rally, said Manas Ranjan Biswal of Brahman Deo village, was much bigger and spontaneous.

Seeking to regain his constituency which he lost in 2009 to Das Burma after three wins on the trot, Mohapatra is leaving nothing to chance this time. It’s a matter of prestige for him and admittedly he has been touring the length and breadth of the constituency for the last four months. “In 2009 polls, I got stuck in New Delhi busy with the selection of candidates for the party and could barely give seven days for my campaign. My over-dependence on campaign managers resulted in my loss. But this time I am personally touching every nook and corner,” he said.

With pro-Naveen Patnaik wave still prevalent in coastal Odisha, the task for Mohapatra is definitely not easy. It’s Mohapatra’s personality and stature as a mass leader versus the popularity of BJD which draws its strength from a slew of social measures, including the `1 a kg of rice for the poor. He seems a lone ranger and is banking on the development he brought into his constituency which he outlines as ‘road network, electricity and drinking water’.

Undoubtedly, one of the most stretched out and geographically difficult Assembly segments in the State with more than 70 per cent of the area under Chilika waters, nurturing Bramhagiri is no mean job. Most of the areas his rally covered on Monday lacked roads two decades ago making communication arduous for the people. Today, Krushnaprasad block boasts of fine black topped road from Palur Junction to Janhikuda where Mohapatra’s rally culminated in the evening.

In a constituency where candidates other than Congress and BJD are virtually inconsequential if one goes by the previous poll records, this time too it would be a repetition. Though Narendra Modi factor is visibly absent in this constituency comprising Bramhagiri and Krushnaprasad blocks and a small segment of Puri Sadar, BJP’s Assembly nominee, a doctor by profession, Debendranath Tarei, is likely to queer the pitch for BJD’s Das Burma. Tarei, who until recently was in BJD and an aspirant for the party ticket switched allegiance after BJP made him the nominee.

Mohapatra is among a few that Naveen would not like to see elected to the Assembly but it would not be a surprise if the 49-year-old Congressman made it to the House for the fourth time.

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