BHUBANESWAR: Four Lok Sabha and 28 Assembly constituencies will go to polls in the first phase in Odisha on April 11 starting the process to decide the next Prime Minister of India and the ruling party in the State.
Historically, the behaviour of voters has differed widely in the four Lok Sabha seats of Kalahandi, Koraput, Nabarangpur and Berhampur. With opinion polls hinting about a shift towards the BJP in the coming elections and reports from the field implying towards a positive tilt towards the saffron party because of the relentless campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team, it remains to be seen which way the voters of the first phase constituencies will go.
While Koraput and Nabarangpur remained impregnable bastions of Congress during the past elections and had changed hands only during the last few polls to BJD and BJP respectively, Kalahandi mostly returned non-Congress candidates with some exceptions. But Berhampur, traditionally a Congress seat, had returned ruling BJD during the last two polls.
The BJD, which started well by denying tickets to all the four sitting MPs of the party, seems to be up against a strong challenge by the rivals particularly the BJP which is leaving no stone unturned to cause a major setback.
The Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat will witness an interesting triangular fight between Pushpendra Singhdeo of BJD, Basant Panda of BJP and Bhakta Charan Das of Congress. Members of the Kalahandi royal family have won from the Lok Sabha seat a maximum number of times with Bikram Keshari Deo winning thrice on a BJP ticket and his father Pratap Keshari Deo five times as an Independent, Swatantra Party and Ganatantra Parishad candidate. Another member of the royal family Arka Keshari Deo, son of Bikram Keshari, is now sitting MP from Kalahandi whom the BJD has denied renomination.
A three-time MP, Bhakta was elected to Lok Sabha in 2009 elections on a Congress ticket. He was elected from Kalahandi in 1989 and 1996 as a Janata Dal and SJP candidate respectively. Pushpendra is a former minister and sitting BJD MLA from Dharmgarh.
The situation is, however, quite different in Nabarangpur constituency with the BJD fielding senior minister Ramesh Majhi to take on Pradip Majhi of Congress and Balabhadra Majhi of BJP. Balabhadra, who is the sitting MP, quit BJD and joined BJP after he was denied ticket. However, will there be a Congress revival in the constituency considered the party’s traditional stronghold? Everything was going well for Congress candidate Pradip, a former MP, but the viral video seems to have landed him in a difficulty.
In the adjacent Koraput, BJD’s Kaushalya Hikaka, wife of sitting MP Jhina Hikaka, remains an unknown entity who mostly depends on the ‘conch’ symbol and schemes launched by the ruling BJD. Her husband Jhina hardly visited the constituency during the last five years which seems to have given an upper hand to BJP nominee Jayaram Pangi, a former BJD MP from the constituency.
Congress candidate Saptagiri Ulaka is facing a strong opposition from an influential faction of the party in the constituency.
However, BJD seems to be in an advantageous position as it has fielded former Congress strongman and ex-union minister Chandrasekhar Sahu from the seat denying ticket to sitting MP Siddhant Mohapatra. BJP candidate Bhrugu Baxipatra is, however, putting up a spirited fight. Congress has fielded V Chandrasekhar Naidu from the seat.