BALASORE: Kendrapara may have hogged the limelight this elections with the BJD and BJP expending enormous political capital in a battle of prestige but Balasore is no less. It is the only seat in the State after Koraput where the tallest leaders of all the three parties - Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik and Congress president Rahul Gandhi have made their pit stop to campaign for their respective candidates.
While the BJD has pinned hope on sitting MP Rabindra Kumar Jena, BJP has fielded its firebrand leader Pratap Sarangi who had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 election. The Congress has replaced former Union Minister Srikant Jena with Navajyoti Patnaik, son of OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik.
With the BJP riding high on Modi wave and BJD banking on its pro-poor schemes and development works undertaken in the last five years and Congress highlighting failures of both the Central and State Governments, Balasore, the prime seat of north Odisha is set for a triangular fight.
After the extensive campaigning by the bosses of three parties, the electoral battle has become a do-or-die situation for Rabindra, Pratap and Navajyoti. For the BJP, it is a high stake seat while it is a prestige issue for the BJD to retain the seat. For the Congress, it is the time to revive their past glory. Primarily a fort of Congress till 1998, BJP-BJD alliance had won from the seat thrice.
Even as BJD is exuding confidence of performing better, induction of former Minister Raghunath Mohanty and sitting Nilagiri MLA Sukanta Nayak in BJP may play spoilsport. BJP has fielded Mohanty from Basta and Nayak from Nilagiri Assembly segment.
“It is the transparent and clean image of the Chief Minister and schemes implemented over the years rule the roost. Those who suspected to lose ticket or denied renomination have left the party. It will not hamper our winning prospect,” said industrialist-turned politician Rabindra.
Despite the speculations that the Congress, which has around 27 per cent vote base in the district, may benefit from division of votes, the chances seem remote with senior leader and former MP Srikant playing the decisive role and campaigning against the party.
In the 2014 elections, while the BJD had got 41.33 per cent votes and the BJP 27.81 per cent, Congress managed to get 26.44 per cent. This time a major portion of its votes is likely to shift to both BJD and BJP.
Navajyoti, however, looks confident. “No wave will work. People have experienced the last five years of both the Governments. They want change and it will reflect in their votes,” he maintained.
Two-time MLA from Nilagiri, BJP’s Pratap though was initially interested to contest from the Assembly seat but was pitched for the LS seat at the last moment. Known for his simplicity and oratory he is also more than confident this time. “People will vote for Modi at the Centre and against the misrule of Naveen Government in the State,” he stated.