Neither the dates for the general elections have been announced nor has Biju Janata Dal (BJD) Supremo announced any names of candidates for the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in 2024. However, everyone was taken aback after the party’s MLA and minister started campaigning for party leader Shreemayee Mishra and dropped quite explicit hints that she is Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s choice for the Bhubaneswar Parliamentary seat.
While addressing party workers and the public at a Jan Sampark Padayatra in Bhubaneswar, Minister of Social Security and Empowerment of PWDs, Ashok Chandra Panda was heard saying that the BJD is going to field Shreemayee Mishra from Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat. The Minister also posted a video of him making the announcement on a social media platform.
In the video, the Minister can be heard saying, “In the coming days, Naveen Babu will field Shreemayee Mishra from the Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat. The Chief Minister has decided it. It is a matter of the Chief Minister's pride. I urge you all to ensure that she emerges victorious.”
When asked, Minister Panda denied that he made any statement regarding Shreemayee Mishra’s candidature. “Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik will take a decision whether she (Shreemayee Mishra) will be made a candidate or not. There is a hell and heaven difference between what I said and what is being reported in different channels. What I said is she is meeting people and seeking their blessings and vote her to power if she gets a ticket,” said Panda.
In this regard, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Bhubaneswar district president, Babu Singh said, “I don’t think the residents of Bhubaneswar will accept someone who has landed from nowhere. The people would vote someone to power who is capable of raising their issues in the Parliament.”
The recent issue of Shreemayee Mishra has only widened the fissure in the party. Former Bhubaneswar MP and BJD’s vice president, Prasanna Patasani expressed his dissatisfaction openly.
“I believe the party won’t repeat such a mistake. It has suffered the consequence of its mistake last time. Last time, I was told to be nominated to Rajya Sabha. But I was not sent. Did I protest? Many have come and gone. I am with the people and have never tasted failure,” Patasani said.
When contacted, political analyst Prasanna Mohanty said, “It (projecting Shreemayee Mishra as a candidate for Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat) may be a strategy of the BJD to checkmate the BJP. The possibility of projecting someone and fielding another one can’t be ruled out. The party will try its level best to check incumbent Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi as she has put the party in trouble on several occasions.”