Himansu Shekhar Rout

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) seems to be tail-spinning into ‘chaos’ in Ganjam, the home district of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, given the fact that one leader after another is deserting the ruling party and joining the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP).
This is reportedly happening after Gopalpur MLA Pradeep Panigrahi joined the BJP. Significantly, Panigrahi has recently been announced as the BJP candidate from the Berhmapur Lok Sabha seat.

Another BJD leader and former Khallikote MLA Purna Chandra Sethy accused the BJD of sidelining him before crossing over to the saffron party on Monday. Sethy was reportedly aspiring for a BJD ticket this time. Earlier, another frontline leader of the ruling party Bipin Pradhan, touted as a rebel in Digapahandi, had joined the BJP. 

To add to the BJD’s headache, many disgruntled leaders and ticket aspirants from various Assembly constituencies are said to be in contact with the BJP. They may plunge into the saffron pond anytime now, sources said.

Speculations are rife that the BJD is toying with the idea of fielding incumbent Berhampur MLA Bikram Panda in the Gopalpur seat, presently represented by Pradeep Panigrahi. Similarly, the party’s district unit president Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik is being considered for the prestigious Berhampur Assembly segment.

In the case of Berhampur Lok Sabha seat, former BJD MP Siddhant Mohapatra, who was in the political wilderness for some time, is said to be eager for a party ticket this time amid speculation that the party may repeat the candidature of MP Chandra Sekhar Sahu. 

The party’s MLA from Chhatrapur, Subash Behera is being opposed by frontline leader Laxmi Padhi. In Aska, MLA Manjula Swain is again hoping for the party ticket, but block chairperson Narayana Swain wants to obtain a party ticket this time. In Kabisuryanagar, another frontline leader Hara Sahu is in the race for a party ticket. 

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Moreover, Polasara MLA Srikant Sahu, who is caught in a huge controversy, is still a ticket hopeful while two other women leaders Arati Devi and Buguda block chairperson K Priyadarshini are said to be in the ticket race.

With the ruling party aiming to come to power for the sixth time, any of the ticket hopefuls, if denied, could become rebels and may jump into the saffron bandwagon, even though some BJD leaders are putting up a brave front, dismissing any impact.

The Berhampur Lok Sabha seat consists of seven Assembly segments of which four seats including Berhampur, Chhatrapur, Digapahandi and Chikiti are currently represented by the BJD. Mohana is with the Congress while Paralakhemundi is with the BJP. 

It is said that Pradeep Panigrahi is wielding clout in most Assembly constituencies, for which the BJD is allegedly worried.      

BJP leader Pradeep Panigrahi said, “Thousands of BJD frontline leaders, workers and functionaries are now joining the BJP. This is happening because of problems at different levels. People are longing for a change.” 

However, BJD stalwart Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik asserted, "Nothing will happen to our party in Ganjam because our organisation is strong. The Chief Minister can change candidates as per the efficiency of the leaders. It is his discretion. Those leaving the party are escapists and opportunists.” 

Senor Journalist, Prasanna Mohanty said, "Leaders like Pradeep Panigrahi are leaving the BJD. Defending its fort has been a cause of headache for the BJD now. The Pradeep Panigrahi factor is a key one for the BJD. It is being seen that young voters are inclining towards the BJP in Ganjam. It can be said that it will not be a smooth sailing for the BJD.”

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