Odisha: Internal strife over candidates in Bargarh not a good sign for BJP

The abrupt nomination of Nihar Mahanand sparked allegations of favouritism and internal discord within the BJP’s ranks in Attabira.
Image used for representational purposes
Image used for representational purposes Photo |PTI

BARGARH: As the countdown to nominations commences, unrest within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bargarh district has come to the fore, with strong opposition to candidates from party workers echoing through key Assembly constituencies.

The dissatisfaction revolves around Sanat Gartia in Bijepur and Nihar Mahanand in Attabira, sparking concerns over voter backlash in the forthcoming elections.

Gartia has been nominated for the third consecutive time from Bijepur and is facing pushback from within his party ranks. His previous defeats in the last two elections have raised doubts among BJP workers who now demand a change in candidate to enhance electoral prospects in the fiercely contested constituency.

He was given a ticket twice, first in the 2019 General Elections and again in by-elections the same year. Gartia had rejoined the saffron party in 2018, just before the Bijepur bypoll, necessitated due to the demise of Congress leader and husband of sitting BJD MLA Rita Sahu. Earlier, he had deserted BJP in 2008 to join the BJD.

In the 2019 general polls, Gartia was given a ticket considering his popularity among the locals and was yet again fielded in the by-elections with the hope of pocketing more votes. However, the plan backfired as the BJP leader secured lesser votes than the first time. Gartia had polled 53,482 votes in the last election, which is about 28.1 per cent of the total votes polled in the constituency. Subsequently, in the by-elections, he could secure only 37,967 votes against BJD’s Rita Sahu, polling 20.62 pc votes.

The initial murmurs of resentment over Gartia’s candidature became obvious and came out in the open after local party workers launched a protest and shouted slogans ‘Bijepur bachao, Sanat Gartia ko Hatao’ in Bijepur a few days ago. Kamlesh Ray, who led the protest said, “We are not in favour of the decision taken regarding the candidate in Bijepur. The party has already tried him twice and he has lost with terrible margins. Since, we are working at the grassroots level, we are aware of the agony of people. Our choices are being questioned. How can be back such a candidate?” Though contacted over the issue, Gartia could not be reached.

Similarly, in Attabira, discontent is brewing over the selection of Nihar Mahanand who recently exited the Congress to join the BJP and was swiftly awarded the ticket, triggering disgruntlement among local party members. The abrupt nomination of Mahanand sparked allegations of favouritism and internal discord within the BJP’s ranks in Attabira.

Meanwhile, the BJP candidate for Paikmal, Gobardhan Bhoy has already drawn criticism from the locals who are against him for supporting the Ong River Dam Project which will affect several villages. In protest, they have threatened to boycott the poll.

The outcome of these internal deliberations will likely influence the party’s electoral prospects and its ability to secure victory in critical constituencies as the party workers threaten to withdraw support.

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