Himansu Shekhar Rout

Who will fill the vacuum left by Maheswar Mohanty in the Puri unit of the Biju Janata Dal(BJD)? The question is reportedly haunting the top leadership of the ruling party when the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) is expanding its footprints. Who will be taken into confidence by the party supremo in this matter? 

Names of some party leaders are doing the rounds for this role. Former Brahmagiri MLA, Sanjay Dasburma was recently inducted into the party’s organizational affairs after staying politically dormant for several months. The crux of the problem is that his relationship with Puri MP Pinaki Misra and Satyabadi MLA, Umakanta Samataray is not amicable. 

The next senior leader is Nimapara MLA Samir Ranjan Dash, but he is dogged by one controversy after another. Another name doing the rounds is that of Sunil Mohanty, son of late Maheswar Mohanty. He may inherit his father’s political legacy as well as the party’s organizational onus in the district.  

Another veteran leader of the ruling party in the district is Satyabadi MLA Umakanta Samantaray, who is said to be losing his clout in the party organization. In this situation, Sanjay Dasburma is reportedly keen on the Satyabadi Assembly seat. This has caused an internal conflict between Samantray and Dasburma.

Maheswar Mohanty was one of the most influential leaders in Puri given his track record that he was elected from the Puri Assembly seat five times; though he was trounced by BJP’s Jayant Sarangi in 2019. 

Though BJD supremo, Naveen Patnaik has not yet given his green signal to anybody for spearheading the Puri unit, Sunil Mohanty, being the son of the late legislator, is now seen taking part in various programmes of the party in the district, with the hope of carrying forward his father’s political legacy.   

The party may give a chance to Sunil Mohanty in Puri, once a fortress of the BJD. But he is set to face challenges, stemming from alleged internal squabbles in almost all Assembly seats of Puri. Parallel organizations in the ruling party have been a headache.

The other challenge is from the BJP which is growing its base in the district. This was evident from the fact that the BJP wrested the Puri Assembly seat in the 2019 election while the party’s MP candidate Sambit Patra gave a tough fight to BJD MP Pinaki Misra. Patra lost the battle by a margin of only 12,000 votes. 

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BJD’s observer for Puri district, Ranendra Pratap Swain said that the vacuum created by Mohanty can’t be filled up. “We have to work hard.  We will make efforts to look for an able leadership to fill the gap,”  he said.

BJD MP Manas Mangaraj said, "Maheswar Mohanty was an able leader. There are many other able leaders in the district. Party president Naveen Patnaik will soon announce the name of the leader for the party organization in the district.”

BJD leader Bhakta Das admitted that it is a critical time for the party as it once had influence in the district.

Political analyst, Prasanna Mohanty said, “The BJP holds sway in the constituency. Countering the BJP, setting up the messy BJD organization right, and saving the Puri Assembly seat will be a tough challenge for anyone who will take up the mantle of the district unit. Now, many leaders of the BJD in the district have been controversial. The party may repose faith on them, but how far public will accept them remains to be seen.”

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