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Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: With commencement of process for the change of guard in Odisha BJP, speculations have set the political tone on emergence of a new face possibly from the coastal belt as the next chief of the State party unit.

Talks are doing rounds that party heavyweights from coastal belt like Samir Mohanty, Prithviraj Harichandan have emerged as front-runners for the coveted post. However, in the wake of party’s good show during the recent elections, there is every likelihood that the high command might once again repose faith on the incumbent chief of the saffron party, Basant Panda.

Similarly, there are also chances that the central leadership might hand over the party reins to former State party president KV Singh Deo.

Samir Mohanty is presently serving as the Odisha BJP vice president. Even though he did not contest the 2019 elections, his role in scripting the saffron party’s inroads into the BJD bastions in the coastal belt is undeniable. Likewise, Prithviraj Harichandan, son of veteran leader and present Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan is also considered as one of the favourites for the party president post.

On the other hand, speculations also indicate that as the party hasn't handed its leadership to anyone outside of western Odisha since 2004, it is likely to follow the trend this time around. However some sources from within the party are vocal about a change in the scenario.

The BJP has won 8 out of 35 seats in western belt while its vote share has also increased in eastern parts of the State with 5 party members getting into the Assembly from the region.

Experts say that as the party is aligning to strengthen its coastal base, the central leadership might hand over the baton to a leader from the belt.

Party sources said that at present the election for mandal presidents is in full swing. Of the 1004 mandals, presidents of as many as 800 mandals have already been elected. While the election of district party presidents is likely to be conducted next week, the process for choosing the State party head will be held after that. To streamline the process, the central party leadership has also deployed two observers Narendra Singh Tomar and Rajiv Pratap Rudi in the State.

Asked about the possibility of a new president in the State party unit, BJP general secretary, Prithviraj Harichandan said, “The newly elected president will have to oversee two important elections during his tenure so the selection of the chief will be done to strengthen party's base and ensure success in the upcoming elections.”

Senior leader Jayanarayan Mishra said, “Party posts are not the only important thing, rather I would say that our ideologies are binding us. Besides, there is no doubt that an able leader will be chosen as the chief who can truly transform the fortunes of the party.”

Party MP Suresh Pujari said, “There are many leaders in the State who have the capability to take up the responsibility of heading the party, but there are various aspects that are taken into consideration for choosing the party president.”

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