Will ‘Mahamegha Bahan Aira’ Kharbela win the battle of Kandhamal in 2019?

Bhubaneswar: For the former MP and senior BJP leader Kharbela Swain, the battle for Kandhamal in 2019 will be an uphill one, though he is known as a doughty fighter. Interestingly, the forename ‘Mahamegha Bahan Aira’ was name of the dynasty to which famous ancient Kalinga king Kharbela belongs.

What seems to be a daunting fight for Kharbela is he was pitched into the poll fray very late, and also when BJP had lost its preeminence in its strongholds of Baliguda, G Udayagiri and Phulbani in 2014 elections. However, the big hope for Kharbela is BJP had regained some of its strongholds like G Udayagiri and Baliguda in the 2017 rural polls.

After finishing third in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP went on to recover the lost ground as the party finished runner up in 2014 Kandhamal by-election. Still, the vote margin of 2.9 lakh had been quite high. The worry for BJP is Chakapada -the karmabhoomi of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati – voted for BJD in 2017 rural polls. Moreover, Christian dominated blocks like Daringibadi also show a complete tilt towards BJD. But factors like joining of sitting MP Pratyusha Rajeshwari in BJP is considered a positive factor for Kharbela Swain, feel observers.

An analysis of Kandhamal LS seat reveals that BJD’s victory margin had gradually declined to around 1.8lakh votes in 2014 from around 3lakh in 2004. Hemendra Singh fought from Kandhamal seat on BJD ticket in 2014. Though the victory margin of Pratyusha, wife of late Hemendra Singh, was a whopping 2.9 lakh, the vote surge had been attributed to polling of sympathy votes post the demise of Hemendra.

However, BJD candidate Achyuta Samanta has no such sympathy factor working for him. Significant also is BJD has never re-nominated an incumbent MP from Kandhamal LS constituency. In 2004, BJD pitted Sugrib Ray. Party fielded  Rudra Madhav Ray in 2009.  And in 2014, BJD imported Hemendra Singh from Congress to field him from Kandhamal LS.  Maintaining the trend, BJD nominated Achyuta Samanta as LS candidate from Kandhamal in 2019 general elections.

Ground reports suggest BJP consolidating some gains in G Udayagiri, Phulbani and Baliguda; whereas BJD is seemingly going strong in assembly segments like Bhanjanagar, Boudh and Kantamal. However, BJP fielding sitting MLA Purna Chandra Nayak from Daspalla after he quit BJD, has made the fight there a keenly contested one.

As BJP is gaining ground in around 3 assembly segments, the wide lead seemingly maintained by BJD was observed in three other big assembly segments that lends an edge to BJD in the Kandhamal LS. But candidature of Achyuta Samanta has not gone down well in the constituency. Locals, BJD leaders and cadre in Kandhamal were up in arms for fielding an outsider. The protests may mar the chances of BJD, feel observers. The position of Congress party looks very shaky in all the assembly segments now, when the party had finished second in six assembly segments in 2014. The party has fielded Manoj Acharya from the LS seat.