Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

With the 2024 General Elections around the corner, the plot has thickened in the Dharmagarh Assembly seat under the Kalahandi district. As per reports, multiple aspirants from main political parties are vying for tickets to contest the poll.

Dharmagarh constituency turned into a fort for non-Congress parties after 1990. After two terms by the Janata party, BJD won the seat five times consecutively. As former Minister and two-time MLA from Dharmagarh, Puspendra Singh Deo contested from Kalahandi Lok Sabha constituency in 2019, Mousadhi Bag left teachership to throw his hat into the ring from BJD ticket for the first time. Though Bag didn’t have much experience in politics, the ruling party relied on him by playing the Yadav card. The strategy was successful and Bag defeated BJP candidate Ananta Pratap Deo by a margin of more than 16,000 votes.

However, the political atmosphere in Dharmagarh has completely changed in the last five years. Though Bag is keen to contest for the seat for the second time in a row, Kalahandi District BJD President Puspendra may stand in his way. As Puspendra failed to win the Lok Sabha seat, he didn’t want to take the risk anymore. As his lobby inside the party is stronger than Bag, Puspendra is hopeful of bagging the ticket.

“I have left the decision to the party. As I have worked positively, I am hopeful that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik will take it positively and the decision will be taken in my favour,” said Bag.

“Whatever decision the party takes, I will accept it,” said Puspendra.

Apart from Puspendra and Bag, Vice-Chairman of Dharmagarh NAC Manisha Mishra and Kalahandi district BJD Vice-President Pradeep Mund are also in the ticket race.

Though BJP has always given a tough fight in Dharmagarh, the party has never won from the Assembly seat. Kalahandi king Anant Pratap Deo was the candidate of the saffron party in the seat in 2019. However, he finished second with 52, 193 votes. As another strong leader and ticket aspirant from the party, Rabindra Pattajoshi was denied a ticket at the last moment and he went on to fight as an independent candidate. As he got 22,839 votes, the BJP was deprived of a certain victory. 

“I have completely left it on the party. Whatever decision the party will take, I will work accordingly. It is my final decision,” said Deo.

Rabindra has returned to the party fold again and he is hopeful of getting a ticket. Meanwhile, Sudhir Pattajoshi, who is a close aide of Kalahandi parliamentarian Basant Panda, is another ticket aspirant. BJP Juba Morcha District President Bijaydev Sahu and former BJP District President Laxmikant Bag are also in the ticket race.

“I was hopeful of getting tickets in 2014 and 2019. Though others were given tickets, I continued my dedication to the party. I am sure that our party will consider it before distributing tickets,” said Sudhir.

“I am hopeful of getting a ticket. If our party wants, I will emerge as a winner,” said Bijaydev.

On the other hand, Congress has managed to win twice in the constituency. Congress had won the seat way back in 1985 for the last time. Digambar Duria had got 42, 593 votes as a Congress candidate from the seat in 2019. He is hopeful of getting the party ticket this time also. However, Rashmirekha Rout, who recently joined Congress, has also emerged as a strong contender for the party ticket.

“I am confident of getting the party ticket this time. If I manage to get the ticket I will definitely win,” Duria exuded confidence.

“I have joined Congress to establish truth by defeating injustice. I am hopeful of getting a party ticket,” said Rout.

Meanwhile, internationally acclaimed fashion designer Sujit Meher is also planning to contest from Dharmagarh seat this time. He is hopeful to stun the main political parties in the constituency. He is trying to woo the young voters in his favour. However, it is not yet certain from which party he will contest the election.

“Politics is a medium through which we can bring some change into the society. I can’t tell you about my party now. My primary focus is to be united with everybody,” said Meher.

Voters’ Demand

Voters of Dharmagarh have many issues. They have been demanding a district tag for Dharmagarh for the last two decades but in vain. They had staged protests and called for Dharmagarh bandh twice in the past for this purpose. But their demands have fallen on deaf ears. The executive committee, which was leading the protest, got massive support from the residents of as many as six blocks. It is expected that the people of the constituency may put the ruling party in trouble by raising the issue again.

Irrigation issue

Dharmagarh is second in paddy production in the State after Bargarh. People of the constituency grow two crops in a year due to the Indravati irrigation project. However, the farmers have been deprived of irrigation facilities for the last few years due to problems in canals. As a result, they are facing a drought-like situation. Farmers have expressed their resentment over the development. They have been demanding the restoration of irrigation facilities at the earliest.