Will BJD repeat 2014 show in Keonjhar LS despite Modi wave?

Bhubaneswar: As the mine-rich Keonjhar will vote coming Tuesday, mining a win from the Lok Sabha (LS) seat for the BJP and Congress looks an uphill task.

While BJP has placed its faith on old warhorse Ananta Naik, Congress and BJD have brought in new faces. While BJD has pitted Chandrani Murmu, daughter of former Keonjhar MP and Congress leader Harihar Soren, from the LS seat, Fakir Mohan Patnaik will be the  Congress candidate.

Keonjhar was once a Congress bastion. The party had won the LS seat as many as six times since 1952. BJP had won the seat thrice between 1998 and 2004, when the party had an alliance with BJD. Post break-up, BJD had wrested the seat from BJP. And the party has increased its lead in all the assembly seats since then.

However, there are instances galore when the constituency voted in tandem with the national  trend. In 1977, Keonjhar had voted out Congress during the anti-Emergency wave sweeping then across the country. The moot point then is in 2019 elections will Keonjhar follow the nation?

In 2014 elections, BJP had lost over one lakh votes from its tally in 2009. However, the saffron party had gained around 21,000 votes in three assembly segments, Patna, Keonjhar and Karanjia, under the LS. BJP could take the battle to BJP camp, if the saffron party re-claims its heavy vote losses in the assembly segments of Telkoi and Ghasipura.

Ghasipura, the castle of School and Mass Education Minister Badri Narayan Patra, had been the BJD’s voting machine in Keonjhar. The constituency had contributed nearly 30 per cent of the total votes the BJD LS candidate Shakuntala Laguri garnered in 2014 polls. This shows how significant Ghasipura is for BJD.

The new development has been BJD is losing traction in assembly segments of Patna, Keonjhar and Karanjia, but looks strong in other four assembly segments.

However, with State Congress President Niranjan Patnaik himself  contesting from Ghasipura Assembly Constituency, the vote share of Congress is on the down slope in all the assembly segments, except Anandpur and Telkoi. The party’s vote share in Ghasipura had seen a drastic fall between 2009 and 2019.

In the rural polls 2017, the Congress party had failed to win a single Zilla Parishad in Keonjhar district. Though BJD had bagged the majority of ZPs, BJP recorded its presence in around four ZPs under the Patna and Keonjhar Assembly Constituencies.

Though BJP had garnered more votes in Lok Sabha polls than in Assembly polls in 2014, BJD’s vote gain is bigger than BJP in around three assembly segments. The vote gap between BJD and BJP was highest in Ghasipura followed by Anandpur and Telkoi.

Riding on Modi wave, the saffron party seems working on consolidating big leads over BJD in its strongholds of Patna, Keonjhar and Karanjia Assembly Constituencies to win hands down in the LS seat.

Political observers are of the opinion that as BJD has fielded daughter of Congress leader Harihar Soren to make a dent in Congress votes, the anger in BJD camp over sidelining senior BJD leaders may mar the chances of BJD in Keonjhar, when a veteran BJP leader Ananta Naik is in the fray.