Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Some interesting battles are on the cards in these elections which are a crucial test of popularity for the three major parties of the state, more so for the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and its principal rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Though Congress has the potential to make the contest truly triangular it cannot do so without first setting its house in order. The party is witnessing sheer mayhem at the moment with chaos all around. Already debilitated by major defections Congress runs the risk of losing the plot before the real battle begins.

In that event it will be almost a direct fight between BJD and BJP which even otherwise appear to be the main contenders in these elections. Hence most of the key contests are going to take place in constituencies where these two parties will engage in a direct duel. The most prized constituency in the state from this perspective seems to be Kendrapara where chief minister, Naveen Patnaik would be fighting a proxy battle with his bete noire and former BJD MP from the seat, Baijayant Panda who is contesting this time on the lotus symbol.

The ruling party, which has fielded film star-turned-politician, Rajya Sabha member, Anubhav Mohanty from Kendrapara in the hope of cashing in on his popularity among the young movie goers, is expected to pull out all stops to win the seat which has the reputation of being an anti-Congress bastion with an equally strong dislike for the BJP.

But Baijayant, though a BJP candidate, can be excused for fancying his chances from Kendrapara---he had an excellent track record as an MP from the area and made good use of his MPLAD fund to develop the constituency. During his tenure as Kendrapara MP he appeared to be particularly popular among the youth which is important considering that they constitute a sizeable votebank.

Besides, unlike last time when Modi wave did not work in Odisha, this time there seems to an undercurrent in favour of the Prime Minister whose popularity soared in the wake of Balakot airstrike. Baijayant and the party he has adopted can hope to make substantial gains from this. So the former MP, who is also fighting for his honour apart from the ideals that he holds dear, seems to have made a well calculated move. It is a gamble that may pay off and, if it does, it would mean acute embarrassment for the chief minister. A BJP victory would also change the political dynamics of the constituency.

Yet another interesting battle is set to take place in Bhubaneswar where former IAS officer, Aparajita Sarangi, who joined the BJP a few months ago, finds herself pitted against former Mumbai police commissioner, Arun Patnaik who has been handpicked by the chief minister to contest from the prestigious seat. Both can boast of excellent career records and have been chosen by their respective parties with an eye on urban votes. Both are hard working and ambitious. It is, by all accounts, going to be a riveting battle.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)