Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bolangir: The western Odisha district of Bolangir, known for intense temperatures in summer, will witness an intense fight between BJD and BJP in the 2019 polls on April 18,  though presence of Congress in the poll fray will make it a triangular fight.

While Sangeeta Singh Deo, wife of senior BJP leader K V Singhdeo, has again entered the poll fray as BJP candidate for the Bolangir Lok Sabha (LS) seat . BJD has re-nominated sitting MP Kalikesh Singhdeo for the seat. BJD has wrested the seat from BJP since 2009. Sangeeta Deo won the seat in 1998, 1999 and 2004. Congress has pitted Samrendra Mishra , son of the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Narasingha Mishra.

Poll history of the LS seat shows how the constituency didn't choose Congress even when the party was led by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru. The constituency voted for Swatantrata Party formed by C Rajagopalachari thrice till 1971. And father of KV Singhdeo, Raj Raj Singhdeo, had won the LS seat for two consecutive terms then. Raj Singhdeo was the eldest son of Maharaja Rajendra Narayan Singhdeo (Patna princely State), the founder of Swantrata Party in Odisha and also first CM of Odisha. Kalikesh's father A U Singhdeo is second son of Maharaja Rajendra Singhdeo.

Congress party tasted its first success only in 1980, when the Janata Party government at the Centre collapsed in chaos, and the party held its forte till 1996. The party's hold weakened in the LS seat since 1998.  This fact reveals Bolangir constituency had always voted for a stable government.

Post 2004, fight in Bolangir has turned a royal battle between Sangeeta and Kalikesh, who in blood -relation is brother-in-law to Sangeeta. But Samrendra  implores the voters to break this royal jinx in 2019.

In 2014, Kalikesh (BJD) secured around 39 per cent votes, BJP's Sangeeta cornered around 30 per cent. Congress party's share was at 25 per cent. As 9 per cent vote-gap is not considered a big margin in Lok Sabha elections, BJP riding on Modi wave fancies it chances high in 2019. BJP hopes so more as the party performed creditably in 2017 rural polls by bagging around 24 of 33 Zilla Parishads (ZPs) in Balangir .

Interestingly, an analysis of Election Commission data reveals how BJP had polled more votes in 2014 Lok Sabha than in the assembly seats.

Sample this. In Birmaharajpur, BJP secured 3 per cent more votes in LS poll. BJD saw a dip in vote share by around 4 per cent in LS poll in Sonepur vis-a-vis Assembly. But BJP posted 6 per cent higher votes. In Loisingha and Titlagarh also BJD recorded less votes in LS than polled in respective assembly seats. BJP posted around 9 and 10 per cent more votes in LS poll in Loisingha and Titlagarh, respectively. BJD secured almost same per cent votes in Birmajpur and Patnagrah vis-a-vis assembly polls. It polled more votes in LS only in Kantabanji and Bolangir.

While BJD has put new candidates in two assembly seats of Loisingha and Patnagarh, the party re-nominated  sitting MLAs in other 5 assembly seats. Though BJD looks to have an edge in Titlagarh and Birmaharajpur, BJP is closing in the gap with BJD in Kantabanji and Loisingha. BJP surge is also seen in Sonepur and Bolangir assembly seats, but BJD is ahead. Congress seemingly not in race, except in Bolangir assembly seat fought by Narasingha Mishra.