BHUBANESWAR: As the Bharatiya Janata Party made its first major inroads into Biju Janata Dal’s green bastion grabbing eight out of 21 Lok Sabha seats in Odisha, the dichotomy of its surge was for all to see. It expectedly made gains in western districts but not as much as it would have liked to.
Coastal Odisha, the fortress of the ruling outfit, remained almost impregnable for the saffron party, a reason BJP could not make a dent in the regional party’s stronghold.
However, one woman defied the trend. Aparajita Sarangi, former Odisha cadre bureaucrat who took voluntary retirement to join BJP last year, was the sole candidate of the party to stand tall even when heavyweights bit the dust from the region, falling to the Naveen magic.
Her victory from Bhubaneswar Parliamentary Constituency was hard-earned and remarkable because she won from a constituency which has not only been a BJD bastion for years but also the seat of power, the State Capital.
What made it all the sweeter is the fact that in all the seven Assembly segments of Bhubaneswar PC, no BJP candidate could make it count. While ruling BJD continued its sweep bagging six seats in Bhubaneswar (North), Bhubaneswar (Central), Bhubaneswar (Ekamra), Khurda, Begunia and Jayadev, Congress veteran Suresh Routray secured Jatni.
At the end, she polled 4,86,991 votes against her BJD rival Arup Patnaik’s 4,63,152. The margin was barely over 23,000 but to put it in perspective, in 2014, BJD’s Prasanna Patsani had won from the seat with a 1.89 lakh margin which meant the former bureaucrat had a lot of ground to cover.
Literally, it was Aparajita’s run against all of them. Something which happened in a seat like Bargarh where BJP’s Suresh Pujari defeated ruling party’s veteran Prasanna Acharya but all the seven Assembly segments went to BJD. However, western Odisha was always known to be a BJP stronghold.
It was not the case with Bhubaneswar where Aparajita was pitted against former Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik. The former IAS officer had a head-start as she got down to work immediately after joining BJP. She was hopeful of an enhanced voters’ turn out which would have made her job easy but Bhubaneswar, notorious for its poor polling record, did not care as the polling showed no encouraging improvement this time too.
At the end, it was Aparajita’s pull as a strong candidate which helped her divide the voters’ choice. Bhubaneswar was one of the seats where split voting was clear.
The numbers say it all. All the seven BJP MLA candidates polled a combined 2,80,975 votes whereas the seven BJD contestants netted a total of 4,66,888 votes.
Then there was Routray’s 68,704 votes in Jatni. Aparajita alone managed more.
As a candidate, she had a recall value because she served as Municipal Commissioner of Bhubaneswar and was very popular for her work.
Once she joined BJP, she went down to the basics and connected all the dots.
Her campaign style was also very clean as she stayed away from making personal attacks and stuck to issues of development in a city where she had put in years of service.