A close finish expected between BJD and BJP candidates in Odisha's Jagatsinghpur

A large number of local Congress leaders have also joined the ruling party in the recent days.
Image of BJD and BJP workers used for representational purposes only.
Image of BJD and BJP workers used for representational purposes only. (Photo | EPS)

BHUBANESWAR: The Jagatsinghpur Lok Sabha constituency has transitioned from a Congress stronghold to a BJD bastion over the last two decades with the BJP never being able to manage a foothold in the seat.

However, despite winning the Lok Sabha seat and all the seven Assembly segments under it in 2019, and polling over 50 per cent of the votes in 2014 and 2019, there seems to be a sense of unease in the BJD camp this time. Though the party has repeated the sitting MP Rajashree Mallick, it has changed candidates in four out of the seven Assembly segments. Those who have been dropped include two former ministers Samir Dash from Nimapara and Raghunandan Das from Balikuda-Erasama. The party has also replaced Sambit Routray with wife Gitanjali Routray from Paradip Asembly segment.

The BJP has also renominated Bibhu Prasad Tarai from the seat. Tarai, a former CPI MP from the seat, had polled over 3.48 lakh votes in 2019. Interestingly, Tarai had contested the 2014 election as a Congress candidate from the seat and also polled 3.48 lakh votes. Besides, he had also won the seat on a CPI ticket in 2009. This has proved that besides party affiliations, Tarai also has some sort of a personal vote bank in the area. BJP sources maintained that this was the reason why the saffron party nominated Tarai for the second time. The party expects a close finish in the ensuing election.

The BJD on its part has also taken steps to bolster the party position in the seat by inducting former state working president of the Congress Chiranjeev Biswal and appointing him election coordinator for the seat. Besides, it has also inducted Monideepa Sarkhel, wife of Bapi Sarkhel to the party. A large number of local Congress leaders have also joined the ruling party in the recent days.

Sources in the BJD said that induction of these leaders was aimed to broaden the party’s support base further and minimise the negative impact from the Assembly segments. Though it dropped Sambit Routray from Paradip, his wife Gitanjali was nominated as the party did not want to upset the support base of Damodar Rout family. The veteran leader had passed away recently and the party did not wish to go against the sympathy factor.

Observers, however, believe that BJD candidate will have to counter the anti-incumbency factor against the regional outfit which is in power at all levels in the district including a majority of panchayats. While the party has taken enough precautions to tide over such an eventuality, a senior BJD leader confided that the situation is different this time as a groundswell of support for the BJP can be sensed from the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the area. It remains to be seen how far the BJP can challenge the BJD’s organisational strength in the seat.

The Congress has also fielded a veteran leader and former minister Rabindra Kumar Sethy from the seat. Sethy had contested from the LS seat in a Congress ticket unsuccessfully in 2009 and had polled 3.8 lakh votes. Sethy’s performance in this election will be key to the fortunes of both the BJD and BJP, sources said.

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