Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

With the 2024 General Election around the corner, a complicated equation has emerged in Khandapada Assembly seat of Nayagarh district. Though Soumya Ranjan Patnaik had won the election on a BJD ticket from the seat by a record margin in 2019, he has been expelled from the party. On the other hand, BJD leader Anubhav Patnaik among several others is hopeful of a party ticket this time. 

Meanwhile, the Opposition BJP is also chalking out special strategies to cash in on the situation even as the Congress is trying to strengthen its grassroots base to pose tough challenges to both the BJP and the BJD.

Khandapada has a history of favouring Congress and independent candidates. However, the BJD grabbed the seat in 2019. Though the conch party scripted its maiden win from the seat in 2000, an independent candidate managed to checkmate the ruling party in 2004. However, BJD came back to power in 2009 again and since then, the ruling party has registered hat-trick victories from the seat. Soumya Ranjan Patnaik had clinched victory in the seat in 2019 by getting a record amount of 1,00,038 votes. His competitors-the BJP candidate and an independent one-even failed to get at least 20,000 votes.

However, the political landscape in the constituency has been completely changed since then. As Soumya has been expelled from the party, there is no chance of his candidature from the party in the upcoming election. Under the circumstances, Soumya’s political rivalry and former MLA Anubhav Patnaik is considered as the frontrunner to get the BJD ticket. However, the ruling party is repeatedly changing its candidates from the seat. Considering this trend, there is a question mark over the candidature of Anubhav. On the other hand, Khandapada block Vice-Chairman Sisir Kumar Sahu and former Chairman of Bhapur block Gayadhar Parida are trying their best to get BJD tickets.

“I have full faith in Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He is very much concerned about the development of the constituency. I am confident that I will get a chance to serve Khandapada again,” Anubhav exuded confidence.

“I am serving the people of Khandapada for the last 20 years. I am hopeful of getting a BJD ticket in the upcoming election,” said Sahu.

“If CM Naveen Patnaik blesses me, I will emerge winner in the upcoming election with support from the people of Khandapada,” said Parida.

The opposition BJP has never finished second in the seat. In the last election, independent candidate Dusmanta Kumar Swain had secured the second position with 18,608 votes. BJP candidate and former MLA Siddhhartha Sekhar Singh had managed to get 14,014 votes to finish third. Singh is also in the ticket race this time. Similarly, BJP State Juba Morcha President Abhilash Panda and BJP Nayagarh District Mahila Morcha President Archana Das are also hopeful of bagging the saffron party ticket. 

“I am always with the people and with their support I have become MLA in the past. I am always ready to serve people,” said Singh.

“BJP will definitely win from Khandapada in the upcoming election and I am hopeful of getting a BJP ticket,” said Panda.

“People in the constituency have faith in BJP and me. They are eager to see a common woman like me to be their MLA,” said Das.

On the other hand, Congress had a dismal show in the seat in the last election as its candidate Basant Moharana had got only 885 votes. The party had also performed miserably in 2014 by securing only 1,877 votes. Under the circumstances, Khandapada Congress Block President Debabrata Behera may get a chance this time to resurrect the past glory and party position in the upcoming election.

“People of Khandapada want a change. I am sure that Congress will emerge a winner from the seat in the upcoming election,” said Behera.

Issues and demands of Khandapada voters

Khandapada people are grappling with many issues. However, the main demand of the voters is to announce Khandapada as a subdivision. Though the residents of the constituency have been demanding it for many years, it has fallen on deaf ears so far. As there are many tourist spots in the constituency, the people of the area have also been demanding railway connectivity from Puri to Khandapada.

People of Khandapada have been facing the wrath of floods every year. Hence they have been demanding for the construction of a barrage on Mahanadi to control the flood and provide irrigation facilities in the area. However, the district administration and political leaders are not paying any heed to their demand.

Khandapada is located near a river. However, the people of the area are still deprived of proper drinking water facilities. Though the State government had assured to provide pure drinking water to every household by 2024, nothing has been materialized yet. The people of the constituency have expressed their resentment over the development.