BERHAMPUR: With four days left for second phase polling, campaigning by candidates for the Kandhamal Parliamentary constituency has reached its peak.
The Kandhamal Parliamentary constituency comprises seven Assembly segments spread across four districts. While Phulbani, G Udayagiri and Baliguda Assembly segments are in Kandhamal district, Bhanjanagar is in Ganjam, Daspalla in Nayagarh and Boudh and Kantamal in Boudh. The Lok Sabha seat was created in 2008 in place of erstwhile Phulbani after the Presidential notification for delimitation of constituencies.
The seat was a favourite of the BJD-BJP alliance but the tie-up ended in 2008 after communal riots in Kandhamal. Since 2009, the constituency, which has a sizeable number of scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and Christian voters, has been a stronghold of BJD. Its electors have been electing new representatives and the trend will continue in the ensuing polls. This time five candidates are in fray for the seat. While BJD has fielded Rajya Sabha member and edu-entrepreneur Achyuta Samanta, from the segment, BJP has nominated Mahameghavahana Aira Kharabela Swain and Manoj Kumar Acharya is the Congress candidate. Besides, Amir Nayak of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Tuna Mallick of CPI-M are also in the fray.
However, a direct fight between BJD and BJP is expected for the constituency. With new candidates in fray, the poll battle is set to be an interesting one. The 55-year-old Achyuta, an educationist, philanthropist and current Rajya Sabha MP is pitted against 66-year-old Kharabela, a former bureaucrat and a seasoned politician, who has been elected to the Parliament thrice. Unlike the two nominees, 37-year-old Manoj hails from the district.
Much before the election schedule was announced, Achyuta had launched various activities in the constituency and laid the foundation of a branch of Kalinga Institute of Social Science (KISS) near Daringibadi. Through KISS, Achyuta has provided education to thousands of kids of poor families of the district. He also has the clean image of Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik to his advantage. On the other hand, Kharabela, is banking on the Modi wave. Manoj, the youngest candidate in the fray has the advantage of being a local.
The important issues prevailing are roads, health care, safe drinking water and rail connectivity. Despite being spread over four districts and bestowed with natural resources, Kandhamal is considered a backward constituency. The candidates are being approached by the rural voters to address their problems. The primary demand of the voters is railway connectivity. The demand is not new and a survey was conducted by railways during 2015 for a railway line from Berhampur to Sambalpur via Phulbani.
● The seat was a favourite of the BJD-BJP alliance but the tie-up ended in 2008 after communal riots in Kandhamal
● Since 2009, the constituency, which has a sizeable number of scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and Christian voters, has been a stronghold of BJD
● Its electors have been electing new representatives and the trend will continue in the ensuing polls
● This time five candidates are in fray for the seat