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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: With Congress on the canvas in Berhampur Lok Sabha (LS) seat, a high-profile bi-polar contest is on the cards here in 2019 elections. When BJD is on an overdrive to score a 'hat-trick' in the elections, BJP is employing all 'tricks' at its command to reclaim the seat it won riding on Kargil wave in 1999. The BJP is hoping to take-off on Balakote airstrikes this time.

Electorally, Berhampur Lok Sabha seat was never a swing seat in Odisha. The Congress never had tasted defeat in Berhampur, not even in the height of anti-emergency wave in 1977. For this, Berhampur LS earned a reputation of being a Congress 'safe seat'. And then PM PV Narasimha Rao, after winning the seat, retained it at the expense of Nandiyal, his home constituency.

However, the formidable alliance of BJD - BJP and Kargil wave together brought an upheaval. BJP wrested it from Congress in 1999. Congress bounced back in 2004. But a heady mix of Re1-a-kilo rice and matinee glamour scripted the epitaph of Congress in 2009. And BJD has been on winning spree since then.

Elections 2014, however, put BJD on notice. With Modi wave sweeping the nation then, BJP LS candidate polled more votes in the range of 1-4 per cent in Lok Sabha vis-a-vis the votes polled by individual candidates in assembly seats in 2014. The party's LS candidate polled more votes than its assembly candidates in six constituencies, except Gopalpur. Furthermore, then Congress nominee Chandra Sekhar Sahu had received around 2 percent more votes than Congress party's candidates in assembly seats of Gopalpur and Mohana.

Despite wins in Berhampur and Mohana Assembly seats, BJD recorded a sharp dip in vote share in 2014. Sidhant Mohapatra trailed by over 6,000 votes from then Congress candidate Chandra Sekhar Sahu in 2014 in Berhampur constituency. BJP votes rose sharply to only trail by 6,000 votes from BJD in Berhampur constituency. In Mohana assembly seat, BJP vote share trailed BJD by a fraction only. BJP's vote share in Chhattrapur rose sharply to around 20 per cent and Congress was pushed to 4th.

Realising trouble, BJD undertook political manoeuvrings and inducted Congress strongman Chandra Sekhar Sahu, Bikram Panda, left leaders et al in Ganjam district into BJD to shore up its vote base.

For upcoming 2019 elections, BJD made newly inducted Congress strong man Chandra Sekhar Sahu its Berhampur LS candidate; whereas BJP pitted State BJP General Secretary Bhrugu Baxipatra. Congress put up a greenhorn V Chandrasekhar Naidu. In the bipolar contest, BJD seems to have an edge over BJP. However, BJP is trying to take the battle to wire and is planning a mega PM Modi rally in Berhampur.

The Berhampur Assembly Constituency will also witness bi-polar contest between BJD's Bikram Panda and Kanhu Pati of BJP. The Congress candidate Lingaraj Choudhury is a newbie.

In Chhattrapur assembly segment, the contest is quite close between BJP and BJD. The reason: last year BJP had inducted a large cadre of left parties, who own around 22 per cent vote share.

The contest is equally keen in Mohana - an ST constituency. The vote share of BJP and BJD were almost around 28 per cent. With Congress weakened, the party which appropriate largest Congress vote base, is likely to pull through.

Though BJP added glitz to the Digapahandi poll by fielding actress Pinky Pradhan to take on BJD veteran and Minister Surjya Narayan Patro, BJD seems likely to be ahead with around 60 per cent vote share.

BJD looks advantageous in assembly segments like Gopalpur, Chikti, and Paralakhemundi. Former minister and BJD strongman Pradeep Panigrahi is BJD's face in Gopalpur, and minister Usha Devi in poll fray from Chikiti. Royal descendant Kalyani Gajapati fights the Parla assembly seat from BJD.


                                         LOK SABHA

* Chandrasekhar Sahu(BJD) - Age - 68 years. Education - BSc.

* Number of criminal cases - Nil.  *Profession - social worker

* Assets - Rs 2crore.

*Bhrugu Baxipatra (BJP) - Age - 43 years. Education - BA, LLB

*Number of criminal cases - Nil  *Profession - Business.

*Assets - Rs2crore

*V Chnadrasekhar Naidu (Congress) - Data not Available in public domain



*Bikram Panda (BJD) - Age - 48 years, Education - M Com, LLB

*Number of criminal cases -  1  *Profession - Social worker

*Assets - Rs 4crore.

*Kanhu Charan Pati (BJP) - Age - 55years. Education - Post Graduate

*Number of criminal cases - Nil.  *Profession -  Not available

* Assets - Rs 1crore.

*Lingaraj Choudhury (Congress) - Data not available in public domain.

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