JEYPORE: In keeping with the promise of fielding 33 percent women in Lok Sabha seats, the BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik announced Kaushalya Hikaka, the wife of sitting MP Jhina Hikaka, as the party candidate from Koraput constituency. However, the former school teacher with little experience in politics faces a tough task of plunging straight into the rough and tumble of elections and taking on strong opponents in the battle field.
Despite being the wife of MP Jhina, Kaushalya had not been actively involved in politics. Neither does she have a connect with workers or people at the grassroots nor do party workers recognise her.
Under these circumstances, it will be difficult for the new face to ensure win for the ruling party as she would have to fight the poll battle with a senior leader like Jayram Pangi who will be contesting from the seat for BJP and Congress’ Sapatagiri Ulaka.
A former teacher of Unit I High School in Bhubaneswar, Kaushalya had been staying in Bhubaneswar after being transferred by the State Government on security grounds ever since Jhina was released by Maoists in 2012. Jhina was kidnapped by ultras in 2012 and kept in captivity for 34 days when he was the Laxmipur MLA.
It was then that people had seen Kaushalya for the first time. Sources said her candidature for the seat has left not just the party workers but also other senior aspirants surprised.
The prestigious constituency was a stronghold of Congress till 2009 and former Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang had won from it for nine consecutive times. He had lost to Jayaram Pangi of BJD in 2009 and again in 2014, to Hikaka. He was denied ticket this time due to a perceptible anti-incumbency factor in the constituency.
What has left the poll managers of BJD worried is that the first phase polling is just a few days left but campaigning for Kaushalaya is yet to gain pace. Further, the candidature of Kaushalya has created dissidence in the party with many BJD supporters unwilling to campaign for her.
On the other hand, Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Jeypore has rejuvenated the district unit of BJP which is working overtime to ensure win for its candidates.