BALANGIR: A strong anti-incumbency factor is posing a big challenge to sitting BJD MLA of Sonepur Assembly seat Niranjan Pujari. Though Niranjan has a headstart over his rival BJP and Congress candidates, both being first-timers, he is facing tough questions from the electorate. Niranjan won consecutively from the erstwhile Binka Assembly segment in 2000 and 2004 elections. After delimitation, Binka was merged with Sonepur and Niranjan has been representing the seat since the last two terms. Sources said locals are dissatisfied with the sorry state of primary education and ailing healthcare sector in the constituency.
While road connectivity has improved significantly during his tenure, rural voters feel various other sectors have been neglected. Moreover, many social security schemes launched by the State Government have not been properly implemented in the region. Sensing trouble, Niranjan too has started putting in extra efforts to woo voters and has embarked on door-to-door campaigning. On the other hand, BJP candidate Ashok Pujari, who has entered the poll fray for the first time, is trying to capitalise on the ‘Modi wave’ and the welfare schemes launched by the NDA Government at the Centre.
Sources said the saffron party has a strong network in the segment and is using every trick in the book to sway voters in its favour. Ashok is also trying to trying to take advantage of the simmering anti-incumbency against Niranjan. The BJP candidate enjoys a good rapport with voters and is believed to put up a strong fight against Niranjan. Congress candidate Chittaranjan Mishra is also leaving no stone unturned to woo the electorate. The party has traditional vote-bank of ST, SC and backward communities in the segment. The recent visit of AICC president Rahul Gandhi to Odisha has also given it a boost and infused confidence among the workers.