Himansu Shekhar Rout

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has sharpened its focus on defending its fort in western Odisha, where the party is representing in five Lok Sabha seats, apart from making sustained efforts to put up a spectacular electoral performance in most Assembly seats in 2019. 

No wonder the saffron party wanted Home Minister Amit Shah to blow the poll bugle for the party from Sonepur, a politically strategic point. Political observers see it as the BJP’s big strategy to checkmate the BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is contesting election from the Kantabanji Assembly seat with an aim to stop the saffron surge in that part of the state.  

Sounding confident about the party's poll success, Odisha BJP president Manmohan Samal said, "This meeting will make an impact on 4.5 crore people in Odisha. It will give impetus to the people and party workers. In Bolangir, seven Assembly seats will be won by the BJP.” 

As per reports, the BJP now enjoys a good wave of support in western Odisha. Sonepur under the Bolangir Lok Saba seat shares borders with four other parliamentary seats Kalahandi, Sambalpur, Sundargarh and Bargarh – all won by the BJP in 2019. 

Besides, the party got electoral success in eight out of the 36 Assembly seats in western Odisha in 2019. Bhawanipatana, Talasara, Sundargarh, Biramitrapur, Loisingha, Rengali, Sambalpur and Deogarh are now occupied by the BJP while its nominees had given a tough fight to the BJD and Congress in 20 other Assembly seats.

Significantly, the BJP candidates in Raghunathpalli, Kantabanji, Kuchinda and Kantamal lost the polls by a whisker – a margin of less than 5,000 votes. 

By organising the Vijay Sankalp rally with the Home Minister in strategically important Sonepur, the BJP intends to win all the Lok Sabha seats and maximum number of the Assembly seats. 

There are several electoral issues including the distress sale of paddy, the sensational Mamita Meher murder case, and the district status to the Padampur sub-division. The BJP has been trying to cash in on these issues.

However, Senior BJD leader Prasanna Acharya said, "The impact of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is prevalent. No one can defeat the impact of Sankha and Naveen.” 

President of the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee, Sarat Pattanayak reminded, "What the BJP had said in 2019? It asserted to form the government, but all have seen the results. People are aware of these false promises.” 

The prestigious Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat is witnessing a big fight between BJP stalwart and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and BJD’s organizational secretary Pranab Prakash Das. In Bolangir, the BJD has fielded former Congress leader Surendra Singh Bhoi against the BJP veteran Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo and Congress nominee, Manoj Mishra.

The BJP has repeated its veteran Jual Oram in the Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat. But the party has changed its candidates in Bargarh and Kalahandi seats.

Political observer Prasanna Mohanty said, "Creating a positive atmosphere and winning more seats is the aim of the BJP. Central leaders will come and sharpen attacks on the state government on issues as placed in the chargesheet."

(By Odisha TV Bureau)