Himansu Shekhar Rout

As campaigning for the upcoming election is picking up pace, public buzz and focus are now centred on the Rourkela Assembly seat where two archrivals from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) have locked horns. 

The BJP has fielded its heavyweight and three-time MLA Dilip Ray against BJD’s Sarada Prasanna Nayak. The Congress has fielded Birendranath Patnaik.

Dilip Ray contested from this seat in 2014 and defeated Sarada Nayak. But Ray did not contest the 2019 election. After he got relief from the court in the coal scam, he has again been fielded from the Rourkela seat. He has been holding hectic meetings with his workers and supporters.

He has started door-to-door campaigning and is reaching out to people by highlighting the Modi Guarantee and the issues related to the development of Rourkela and a new bridge across the Brahmani River. Dilip Ray said, "The people are thinking of a change. I see a wave all over the country for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Basic amenities in Rourkela are not in place as yet, though it looks fine from the outside.”

BJD candidate and sitting MLA Sarada Nayak is hopeful of maintaining his winning streak and has intensified his campaigning.  He is going to the people highlighting various development works done by the BJD government. He is banking on the popularity of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. 

Nayak said, "I don’t take my rival into account. I am a soldier of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. The people of Rourkela have dreamt of many things. Many dreams were realised. Sarada Nayak on behalf of the Chief Minister is promising people to fulfil those dreams.”

However, Congress candidate Birendranath Patnaik is upbeat about his party’s prospects this time. He asserted that people are fed up with the BJP and the BJD while the Congress is the only alternative for them.

Patnaik said, "We are reaching out to people with the 'Congress Guarantee.' People of Rourkela will adopt Congress like in Karnataka and Telangana.” 

Rourkela, situated 340 kms away from Bhubaneswar, is known as the Steel City. After Chandigarh, it is the second most well-planned city in the country. The city is known for its steel plant, NIT, Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium and Biju Patnaik University of Technology.  
Issues for the election

The residents of the Steel City are still deprived of some basic amenities. Safe drinking water has been an issue. In December 2023, there was a cholera outbreak allegedly due to contaminated water. As per reports, as many as 13 people died of cholera while scores of people were affected by diarrhoea and cholera. The issue exposed the administrative inefficiency of the Rourkela Municipal Corporation.  

Political observers say, given the current situation, people will prefer an able leader who can deliver on the issues of development. They have predicted an interesting fight in the seat on May 20.

Akshay Samal, a resident said, "Many cities have developed more than Rourkela. The person who gets elected should develop it as a dream city.” 

Arabinda Das, a political observer said, "Both Dilip Ray and Sarada Nayak have been elected from the seat thrice. Now discussion is about who will make the record fourth win. Both the leaders have a support base."

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