Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: The political fight on the turf of Sundargarh looks more intense in 2019 as ruling BJD and Congress have played a new ‘Check’ and ‘Mate’ political game-plan to checkmate Union Tribal Affairs Minister and BJP bigwig Jual Oram, who is seeking re-election from Sundargarh in 2019. Though the polls are on April 18, all eyes are now riveted on the high-profile constituency of Sundargarh.

Jual Oram had won the Sundargarh seat by a hair’s breadth in 2014. And the political scenario post 2014 has turned choppier for the party when BJP leaders who gave tough fight to BJD in some assembly segments were lured into BJD. Moreover, rift in Rourkela BJP and veteran leader Dilip Ray quitting BJP gave a body-blow to the organisational heft of BJP in Sundargarh Lok Sabha constituency in a big way. BJP won the seat of Rourkela for the first time with Dilip Ray leading from the front. Further, intense infighting in Sundargarh district had also muddied the waters for BJP.

The Sundargarh 2019 battle was made more intense with ruling BJD and opposition Congress having pitted new heavyweights to challenge Oram on his turf. Congress has fielded veteran leader George Tirkey. BJD has made Sunita Biswal, daughter of Hemananda Biswal, its face from Sundargarh.

While the political game-plan of BJD is to split Congress votes by fielding Sunita BIswal, Congress Brings in George Tirkey to consolidate votes in Birmitrapur – Rajgangpur region. Also by sealing a pact with CPI, Congress has tried to consolidate its vote base in Bonai.

The game-plan of BJD and Congress looks a grave challenge for Jual Oram. Because, Oram won the 2014 poll trouncing BJD’s Dilip Tirkey by a margin of mere around 18,800 votes. Significantly, when Oram lost to Congress candidate Hemananda Biswal in 2009, the margin was mere around 17,000 votes. The photo-finish in Sundargarh Lok Sabha reveals how tight contest the constituency witnessed in every poll.

The vote arithmetic on ground gives deep insights. While Jual Oram has increased total votes polled from over 3.1 lakh in 1998 to around 3.4lakh in 2014, the votes polled by Congress had risen from around 1.9lakh in 2004 to around 2.6lakh in 2014. The significance is Jual Oram had polled around 3.4 lakh votes in 2014 alone vis-a-vis around 3.1 lakh – 3.3 lakh votes during period 1998-2004 when BJP had an alliance with BJD. The rise seems significant when Oram polled around 2.6 lakh in 2009 polls after split. The vote arithmetic clearly alludes how the best bet for Jual Oram lies in increasing total votes polled to trump the rivals in 2019.

BJP has fielded four new faces in the assembly constituencies of Talasara, Sundargarh, Rourkela, Rajgangpur and Bonai in the upcoming polls. Former Congressman Nihar Ray from Rourkela was a loyalist of Dilip Ray.

Congress pitting George Tirkey from Sundargarh has made the battle more close as Tirkey has a hold on over around 1lakh votes, besides the congress vote base of around 2.6lakh votes. George Tirkey has a strong base in Birmitrapur and Rajgangpur. However, BJD fielding daughter of Hemananda Biswal tried to play the spoilsport as its political strategy was to split Congress votes and take its vote tally past the 3.4 lakh margin secured by Oram vis-a-vis 3.2 lakh votes BJD polled in 2014.