PURI: The BJD, which won the Kakatpur Assembly segment twice consecutively in 2009 and 2014, is facing a strong fight from both the BJP and Congress this time.
Earlier, there was a direct contest between BJD and Congress this election, the BJP has emerged as a formidable challenger. Except Congress, BJD and BJP have fielded new faces in this contest.
Selection of candidates for the segment was also nothing less dramatic for BJD. The ruling party had announced sitting MLA Surendra Sethi as its candidate from the segment but he was stopped from filing nomination by the party high command while he was on his way to file his papers in Puri on April 5. Because, the BJD decided to nominate Tusarkanti Behera, who joined the ruling party after refusing BJP ticket.
Sethi’s supporters staged demonstration against this outside Naveen Niwas but he did not revolt against his party’s decision. Instead, he has chosen to keep himself away from BJD’s campaign trail here.
Kakatpur has been a BJD stronghold for the last three decades where former BJD minister Surendranath Naik and his son Swadhin Naik enjoy massive support. Swadhin is now campaigning for Behera who had unsuccessfully contested as BJP nominee in 2014 General Elections and secured only 12,003 votes. Belonging to the fishermen community, he is depending on organisational base of BJD and party supremo Naveen Patnaik’s popularity to win the electoral battle.
Former legislator Rabindra Kumar Mallick, who was also denied ticket by BJD, joined BJP and jumped into fray. Known as a ‘gentleman politician’, he depends on the development works that were executed during his tenure and Modi wave for winning the segment. Mallick had facilitated construction of at least seven bridges to connect remote pockets of the segment to the mainland. This has brought him massive support from people of the area.
The Congress candidate Biswabhusan Das is not new to politics. He had lost the Kakatpur seat in 2009 to Mallick who had then contested with BJD ticket. In 2014, former minister from Nimapara Rabindra Kumar Sethy contested as Congress candidate from Kakatpur and lost by 40,000 votes to Sethi. Considering the 2014 results, Congress decided to field Das again with a hope that he will give a tough fight to BJD.