Odisha: Can change of candidates by BJD check BJP’s growing presence in Keonjhar?

The BJD candidates have won from the seat in the last three elections.
Representative image
Representative image

BHUBANESWAR: The Keonjhar LS constiutuency presents an interesting scene with the BJD trying to retain the seat amidst the surge of rival BJP through the last three elections.

The BJD has replaced sitting MP Chandrani Murmu, who had become the youngest Parliamentarian at the age of 25, with Dhanurjaya Sidu, originally from the Congress who had won from Champua Assembly seat in 2004. However, BJP has persisted with veteran leader and two-time MP Ananta Nayak.

Nayak had won from the seat in 1999 and 2004 when the BJP had an alliance with the BJD. But since 2009 election, the seat had slipped to the hands of BJD after the two parties parted ways. The BJD candidates have won from the seat in the last three elections.

However, quite significantly, the vote share of BJP candidate Nayak has increased in the last three elections. While Nayak polled 1.64 lakh votes in 2009, it increased to 2.77 lakh in 2014 and to 4.6 lakh in 2019. Besides, the BJP’s position has been strengthened further due to the presence of Mohan Charan Majhi from the Keonjhar ST Assembly seat and other strong candidates from at least three of the seven segments.

The BJD strategy this time seems that the party wants to neutralise the anti-incumbency factor by changing the candidate and fielding Sidu from the seat. Sidu had polled more than 2.6 lakh votes from the seat in the 2009 election by contesting as a Congress candidate. He had quit from Congress and contested from the Telkoi Assembly seat on a BJP ticket unsuccessfully in 2019 election. Sources said he changed sides again this time as the BJP did not consider him for a ticket from the LS seat.

In pen and paper, the seat is considered to be a stronghold of the BJD. Party candidates had won from six out of the seven Assembly segments under the LS seat in 2019. Besides, an old hand like Badri Narayan Patra is also representing the BJD from the Ghasipura segment and has also been renominated for this election.

The Congress is trying to develop its base from scratch as its vote base has dwindled in every election. The confusion in the Congress camp can be gauged from the fact it had fielded Mohan Kumar Hembram from the seat, but replaced him with Binod Bihari Naik. Naik had contested unsuccessfully from the Patna seat in the 2019 election.

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