CUTTACK: Mahanga seems to be in no mood to make it third time easy for State Health Minister and sitting BJD MLA Pratap Jena this election. The seat has a history of not enabling a hat trick for any of its MLAs.
This time too, the sitting MLA is up against an obvious anti-incumbency sentiment among the electorate while the intense infighting in the party ranks has added more bother. Though the ruling party is ahead in campaigning, the two time MLA from the constituency will have to work hard and use all his guile and manoeuvring to retain the seat.
As many as 10 candidates are in the fray for Mahanga Assembly segment which will go to polls in the fourth phase on April 29. But the fight is between BJD, BJP and Congress in the segment which comes under Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency. While the Congress is pinning hope on newcomer Debendra Sahu, the BJP has nominated former Mahanga Development Council head Sarada Pradhan to contest from the constituency.
Pradhan who had contested from the seat as an Independent candidate in 2014 and had come second. With his joining BJP, the saffron party has made significant ground in the constituency. However, Jena exuded confidence of winning and dismissed the internal bickering within BJD in Mahanga. “All internal dispute and issues have already been settled and the BJD workers are making united effort for party’s victory,” he said.
The BJP, which expects to pose a formidable challenge to Jena, is also handicapped by infighting. The party gave ticket to Pradhan by ignoring the claims of many senior BJP leaders who were earlier managing the party activities in the segment. Many BJP leaders including Choudhury Pravat Keshari Mishra, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2009 polls from Mahanga, are reluctant to accept Pradhan’s candidature. Pradhan, though, is confident of his win owing to the Modi wave.
Similarly, Congress nominee Sahu is facing dissent from the supporters of former minister Sheikh Matlub Ali, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 polls from Mahanga. Ali’s supporters who believe that Sahu had not supported the former minister in 2014 polls have left Congress and joined either BJD or BJP. “Ali’s supporters in Congress can create problems for Sahu,” said a political observer.
Sahu claimed that there would be no impact of Ali’s dissent on his prospects as the Congress members are united to wrest the seat from BJD.