CHAMPUA (KEONJHAR): At Champua, the iron ore-rich belt of Odisha, it is only Sanatan Mahakud who matters. The controversial legislator from the Assembly segment is not in the race this election but his writ is still supreme.As the campaign vehicles of BJD stopped at Kandra in Champua, a group of people encircled them. They were from the 16 villages set to be affected by the `2,200 crore Kanpur irrigation project.
Conceived over four decades ago, three Chief Ministers - Biju Patnaik, Janaki Ballav Patnaik and Naveen Patnaik have laid separate foundations for the project. Though construction was delayed due to resistance from the families to be affected, it was resumed in July 2017 after the Government assured them to pay the compensation as per the new rehabilitation and resettlement policy.
However, nearly 70 per cent of people supposed to be displaced have not received the complete compensation package. They have been demanding full compensation and rehabilitation before the project takes off.
Seeing Sana alight from a vehicle, the villagers flocked to him with their pleading. “There is no force or law which can displace you from your inherited land without paying you adequate compensation. I will fight for you till my death,” Sana told them before ascending the stage to campaign for BJD candidates Chandrani Murmu for Keonjhar Lok Sabha seat and Minakshi Mahanta for Champua Assembly segment.
Though the incumbent Independent MLA is not seeking reelection this time, he has managed to have fielded two of his candidates Chandrani and Minakshi as BJD nominees, thanks to his clout with the party supremo Naveen Patnaik.
For the electorate, he is their saviour and messiah. It is evident from the hoardings, banners and posters fixed on the stage and across the constituency. He is in fact taller than Naveen as his life size cutouts are being used by the candidates in every election rally while the Chief Minister is reduced to a small picture and found featured in backdrop banners.
He is also campaigning for the two candidates in his own style. “You all should know that I have not joined BJD. As Naveen Babu sought my help, I agreed with pre-conditions. I demanded university status for DD College and his commitment for a mega steel plant in the district besides two tickets to the candidates of my choice. He agreed. Your vote for Chandrani and Minakshi means the vote is for Sana,” he roared from the stage.
Sana had defeated BJD’s Tatwa Prakash Satapathy aka Papu Pom Pom by about 14,000 votes in 2014. He too had reportedly funded many independent candidates.A man of crores, his assets have grown from `3 crore in 2009 to `69 crore in 2014 (including his wife’s assets of `18 crore). In January last year, police had temporarily frozen his five accounts amounting around `165 crore following the arrest of a private bank manager on charges of transporting `50 lakh in cash to his house without proper documents. Police then claimed the money was meant to create law and order problems in the district.
Though he had formed a new political outfit - Jana Samrudha Party and was planning to field candidates in all 147 constituencies, his resignation from his own party citing health issues a couple of months ago gave rise to the speculations of his growing clout with the BJD boss.
Sana’s meteoric rise took place against the backdrop of an iron ore boom in Odisha. An iron ore transporter then, he became the king of the mineral rich region. The attendance of people in his meetings shows his popularity and connect with the roots.
If BJD wins from both the seats, no matters whose cutout is big or small. It will again be a master stroke by Naveen.