No last hurrah for Naveen

For Naveen, the loss might rankle. It was not just the loss in Kantabanji, the win from Hinjili was barely by a margin of 4,636 votes, a far cry from the massive 60,000-plus votes victory margins he recorded in earlier elections.
CM Naveen Patnaik waving to the crowd during the roadshow.
CM Naveen Patnaik waving to the crowd during the roadshow.Photo | Debadatta Mallick

BHUBANESWAR: Far away from the electoral cacophony of the coastal Odisha, Kantabanji was supposed to be the great poll strategy of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) this election.

By fielding party chief Naveen Patnaik from the small Kantabanji Assembly segment, the ruling party wanted to make a statement and checkmate the Modi tsunami using Naveen’s political pull in a region where the BJP enjoyed considerable sway.

It was a tried and tested formula. Bijepur had worked in2019, why would not Kantabanji? What was meant to be the gentle political giant’s last hurrah in the state politics proved to be Naveen’s Waterloo.

And it came at the hands of a little known BJP candidate Laxman Bag. The 48-year-old defeated the BJD boss by a margin of 16,321 votes in what eventually was Naveen’s first ever electoral defeat ever since he took a plunge into politics as a political greenhorn in 1997, reluctant to step into his legendary father Biju Patnaik’s big shoes.

CM Naveen Patnaik waving to the crowd during the roadshow.
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The 48-year-old Bag, a farmer in profession polled 90,594 votes to Naveen’s 74,273 in what was a classic David versus Goliath story. For record’s sake, Naveen won every election he contested since 1998. Till, 2024 happened.

Bag who originally belongs to a small village Khutulumunda worked as a labourer in his early years. His father Shankar Bag was poor and a living had to be earned for the family. He even helped scores of people find work before joining the BJP in 2002.

It was his work among the migration-hit Kantabanji which had led to his entry in politics. Later, Bag held positions like mandal president, district vice president and state general secretary of Kishan Morcha of the BJP.

In fact, his last two outings were in 2014 and 2019, both ending in losses. In 2019, he lost the election from Congress’ Santosh Singh Saluja by a margin of 127 votes. A Class 10 pass from National Institute of Open Schooling, Allahabad in 2013, Bag campaigned aggressively this time.

For Naveen, the loss might rankle. It was not just the loss in Kantabanji, the win from Hinjili was barely by a margin of 4,636 votes, a far cry from the massive 60,000-plus votes victory margins he recorded in earlier elections.

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