Odisha: In Aparajita-Manmath fight, Congress votes will make it count

It is believed one of the main reasons for Aparajita’s victory in 2019 was the division of Congress votes between her and the BJD candidate.
Image used for representational purposes
Image used for representational purposes

BHUBANESWAR: A lot has changed in Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency since the 2019 elections when BJP’s Aparajita Sarangi inflicted a surprise defeat on BJD’s Arup Mohan Patnaik, a former Mumbai police commissioner. This time, Aparajita is pitted against BJD’s Manmath Routray and Congress’ Yasir Nawaz and the fight for the coveted seat is fiercer than ever.

It is believed one of the main reasons for Aparajita’s victory in 2019 was the division of Congress votes between her and the BJD candidate. Besides, tacit understanding between some BJD leaders and Aparajita had also reportedly helped BJP wrest the seat from the clutches of BJD.

However, this time, the BJD seems to have played its cards masterfully by roping in Manmath, the son of Congress veteran and Jatni MLA Suresh Kumar Routray. With the senior Routray openly canvassing for his son, the BJD candidate, even braving his own expulsion from the Congress, the fight has become tougher for the sitting MP Aparajita in the constituency.

Routray senior is a known face in the Lok Sabha constituency with some pocket votes. Besides, he has a solid base in Jatni Assembly segment from where he has won six times. While Routray is moving around the Lok Sabha constituency seeking votes for his son, the deciding factor in the constituency will be on the division of Congress votes. Can Routray transfer the votes to the BJD or will the presence of a Congress candidate spoil the calculations of the regional outfit, is now the question.

The Congress ploy to field a youth face Nawaz, the president of Odisha unit of National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), is a bid to prevent the division of party votes. The Congress had not fielded a candidate in the 2019 election and had allotted the seat to CPM whose candidate Janardan Pati could muster only around two per cent of the vote share. The party had garnered around 17 per cent votes in 2014 and still has a committed base despite the fact that the votes were grabbed by BJD in 2019 in the absence of its own candidate.

Still, Bhubaneswar is considered a BJD bastion with the party winning six out of the seven Assembly segments under it in 2019. Another factor which the BJD will have to keep in mind is the strong discontentment among local leaders of the regional party after the surprise announcement of Manmath as the candidate only hours after he joined the party.

Till the last day of candidate announcement, the party had promoted senior leader Shreemayee Mishra as the Lok Sabha candidate. Several party leaders including minister Ashok Panda had also announced Shreemayee as the candidate. She had been working in the constituency for the last over a year. Besides, several senior corporators of the party are unhappy with the selection Assembly candidates in the three segments of Bhubaneswar. The BJD will have to neutralise all such negative factors to ensure a win.

A major factor which may go in favour of Aparajita is her connect with the voters. Besides, she will also be supported by some strong Assembly candidates like former MLA Priyadarshi Mishra from Bhubaneswar-North, Babu Singh from Ekamra-Bhubaneswar and Jagannath Pradhan from Bhubaneswar-Central.

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