BHUBANESWAR: The fight for Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency is likely to go down to the wire with both the ruling BJD and BJP leaving nothing to chance to pocket this prestigious seat which will go to polls in the third phase on April 23.
Apart from the high decibel campaign, what has singled out the constituency from the rest is the electoral battle between two retired bureaucrats - BJP’s Aparajita Sarangi, an Odisha cadre IAS officer who took voluntary retirement and BJD nominee Arup Patnaik, former IPS officer and Mumbai police commissioner. Such a fight is a first of its kind in the State.
BJD has nominated Arup by denying ticket to five-time MP Prasanna Patsani from the constituency while Congress has not fielded any candidate as it has left the seat to CPM from which veteran leader Janardan Pati has entered the poll arena.
As the major area of the Lok Sabha constituency is urban, there seems to be a discernible likeness among the common voters for Prime Minister Narendra Modi post Balakot air strikes, which are likely to make a key difference in the poll outcome from the seat. Every discussion, be it at a roadside tea stall or pan shop, revolve around the Modi factor, though the voters are not so forthright about their choice.
At a pan shop hardly 200 metre from Rasulgarh square, a group of people including youngsters and elders praised the manner in which Modi dealt with the situation. However, they also complimented Odisha Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik for the manner in which is trying to take on the might of BJP alone even as the Prime Minister and his team have intensified their attack to wrest the BJD citadel this time.
Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat has become a prestige issue for BJP as was evident from the road show and election meeting addressed by Modi here on April 16. Besides, Sarangi, a former commissioner of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC), is well known in the City for introducing the award winning ‘vending zone’ concept to clear the cluttered Capital roads.
It seems that the urban middle class is rooting for the former IAS officer though it remains to be seen how many of them will actually go to polling booths to exercise their rights. If Sarangi ultimately makes it to the Lok Sabha, she will create history as BJP has never won from the seat.
However, BJD candidate, Arup is also giving a tough fight and the ruling party is confident of retaining the seat this time. The former Mumbai top cop from Puri district’s Delang block also has equally strong credentials.
His role in the infamous Lokhandwala shootout and the handling of 1992-93 riots in Mumbai won him accolades from several quarters. He was also the investigating officer in the 1993 Bombay serial blasts case.
Apart from the ‘charm’ of Chief Minister Naveen, the large slum population in the City will be also be advantageous for Arup. BJD has fielded former mayor Ananta Narayan Jena from Bhubaneswar Central Assembly seat and his hold on slum votes is likely to be a plus point for the BJD Lok Sabha candidate.
There are 377 slums, including 99 authorised and 278 unauthorised, in the City with a population of over three lakh. Even if one lakh of them come out to vote, it is likely to make a huge difference in the results.
Jayadev, Bhubaneswar Central, Bhubaneswar North, Ekamra-Bhubaneswar, Jatni, Begunia and Khurda come under the Lok Sabha seat.
Congress is still a force to reckon with in Jatni where the party has fielded former minister Suresh Kumar Routray. However, it remains to be seen what percentage of Congress vote is transferred to CPM candidate Pati here.