Pradeep Pattanayak

As the political parties have already started preparations for the upcoming big political battles, aspiring candidates in constituencies across Odisha aren’t lagging behind as well. 

Let's visit Bhatli Assembly constituency to understand the issues that are going to dominate the election here. 

BJD's impregnable citadel

Once a fortress of the Congress and then of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bhatli, a much-discussed Assembly constituency in Bargarh district, is now being viewed as an impregnable citadel of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD). 

In the political landscape, Bhatli is one of those seats that assume immense importance. Even though the BJD has firm control over this seat for the last three terms, many are not ruling BJP out of the equation. 

Bhatli had been in the BJP’s kitty from 2000 to 2009. Since 2009, Susanta Singh has been winning from this seat on the BJD ticket. Over the years, he is said to have made a strong base not only in Bhatli but also in the district. In the last election, he had defeated BJP’s candidate Irasis Acharya by a margin of over 23,000 votes. Singh has also been a minister. 

Because of this, Singh is hopeful that he, and none else, would get the BJD ticket this time. 

“It has been four months now that Party Supremo Naveen Patnaik has given the green signal to me. I have no doubt in getting a ticket,” said Singh. 

While the BJD is confident of winning the Bhatli seat, the BJP is pulling all stops to turn the table on the conch party. 

BJD Hattrick, but BJP gaining!

In the last election, even though BJP’s Irasis Acharya suffered defeat he had secured over 74,000 votes, two times than what he secured in 2014. So he is confident that the party will field him. At the same time, Susant Mishra, who had contested the 2014 election as an independent candidate and secured 37,496 votes, is also in the race. 

“I am one hundred percent sure that the party would give me the ticket.  In the last election, the BJP had secured 41 percent of the total votes. This suggests that people have faith in the BJP and this time we will win,” said Acharya. 

A confident Mishra said, “I contested the 2014 election as an independent candidate. I joined the BJP party in 2016 and was aspiring for a ticket in 2019. I have since been with the people and active in all sorts of activities. I am aspiring for a ticket this time as well.”

Confusion in Congress

At the same time, the grand old party seems to be on the back foot as confusion prevails over its candidate for Bhatli. 

In the last election, its candidate Saroj Mohapatra had to be content with 8375 votes, much less than what the party had secured in the 2014 election. However, some new faces have emerged this time to take baby steps into politics. 

“The party as well as the workers are with me. I am sure that the party will give me a ticket in the 2024 election,” said Mohapatra. 

“Due to some reasons, the party didn’t field me in the 2019 election. But this time I am confident that I will get a ticket,” said Satya Narayan Debata, a Congress ticket aspirant. He is the son of former minister Prakash Chandra Debata. 

Irrigation, power & roads 

At the very mention of Bhatli, the picture of undulating paddy plants in vast stretches of land instantly comes to mind. If Bargarh is known as the rice bowl of Odisha, Bhatli is the leading producer within the district.  But the farmers here are facing a lot of issues.

Irrigation is the main problem. While they mainly depend on lift irrigation, they say they are no longer able to pay the electricity bills. The farmers are also struggling with mandi problems and distress sale. 

Besides farmers’ issues, other issues like bad road infrastructure and poor power supply are going to dominate the poll narrative here. 

“We will vote for the candidate, who will work to improve roads and provide better electricity facilities,” said Gupteswar Nayak, a Bhatli voter. Another voter Khiresh Nayak echoed the same.

 

(Reported by Dharmadutta Padhi) 

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