CUTTACK: It would not be a cakewalk for BJD Lok Sabha candidate for Cuttack and five-time MP Bhartruhari Mahtab to retain the seat in face of a perceptible Narendra Modi wave and anti-incumbency sentiments among the electorate.Mahtab, who has been winning from the prestigious Lok Sabha constituency consecutively since 1998, is facing stiff competition from BJP candidate and former DGP Prakash Mishra.
In the last five elections, Mahtab has won almost effortlessly as BJD enjoyed wide popularity in all the seven Assembly segments under Cuttack Lok Sabha seat. In 2014 polls, he had bagged 5,26,085 votes and defeated Aparajita Mohanty of Congress by a whopping margin of 3,06,762 votes.However, the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has witnessed a surge in all the seven Assembly seats after India’s air strikes at Balakot in Pakistan in response to Pulwama terror attack. This Modi wave seems to have made a dent on the popularity of BJD in the region.
Besides, the anti-incumbency factor also has come into play as people of the constituency have a lot of grievances which were not addressed during the BJD regime, opined political observers. Mahtab allegedly has never been accessible to his constituents and if anyone wanted to meet him, he insisted on coming through the local MLA. “Come through proper channel,” was always his reply, said some voters of Cuttack.
This apart, candidature of sons of chit fund scam-tainted BJD leaders Prabhat Tripathy in Banki and Prabhat Biswal in Choudwar-Cuttack has not gone down well with the electorate. The BJD has chosen Tripathy’s son Devi Ranjan and Biswal’s son Soubhik to contest from the two Assembly segments. These two are novices in politics and voters are not convinced with their selection.
However, Mahtab exuded confidence and said Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik’s popularity and clean image would fetch votes for him. On the other hand, Mishra seems to be riding high on the soaring popularity of Modi. “I was impressed with Prime Minister Modi who is concerned for national security. India’s response to Pulwama terror strike was befitting,” said Mishra who had also served as CRPF DG from 2014 to 2016. “The governance in Odisha has reached a new low. Odia self-esteem is hurt. It’s time to change the incumbent Government here and build a new Odisha,” he said.
Mishra’s removal as Odisha DGP in 2014 has snowballed into a major political controversy.
Also in the poll fray from the seat is Congress candidate and former finance minister Panchanan Kanungo. His brother Trilochan Kanungo was chairman of Cuttack Municipality in 1979 and Panchanan also has good rapport with voters of the constituency.
Cuttack Parliamentary constituency comprises of Barabati-Cuttack, Choudwar-Cuttack, Cuttack Sadar, Athagarh, Banki, Baramba and Khandapada Assembly segments. In the last panchayat polls, there was a direct fight between BJD and BJP with the latter putting up a good show. Apart from bagging all the four Zilla Parisad seats of Baramba, the saffron party was also able open its account in other Assembly segments of the district.