Will Sambit pull BJP’s juggernaut in Puri in 2019 polls?

Bhubaneswar:  With BJP charioting  its well conversant and nuanced spokesperson Sambit Patra to chug the saffron juggernaut in Puri, he is pulling all stops  to trump BJD’s three time MP Pinaki Mishra.  As Puri has been the citadel of BJD since 1998, will Sambit with his persuasive skills swing Puri for BJP, which he was doing as a party spokesperson during 2014 -19 is the moot question.

The Puri Lok Sabha seat is to witness a triangular fight between BJP, BJD and Congress. Journalist-turned-politician Satya Prakash Nayak is Congress candidate for the LS seat. However, the big fight will be between BJP and BJD because, the political dynamics for the Congress party has gone for a mutagenic change in Pipili and Bramhagiri, post the joining of Lulu Mohapatra’s family in BJP and pulling out of the Pipili race by senior leader and Pipili Congress candidate Yudhistir Samantray. Moreover, Congress had grown weak over the years in other important assembly segments like Puri, Chilika and Ranpur.

For Sambit, the favourable factors at work this election are: Modi wave, Brahma Parivartan fiasco, rise in gang war, joining of Lulu Mohapatra’s family and Pratyusha Rajeshwari in BJP, who hold a big sway in the assembly constituencies of Brahmagiri and Nayagarh, respectively. While Brahmagiri was a fiefdom of late Lulu Mohapatra for years, Pratyusha belongs to the royal family of Nayagarh whom people hold in high esteem in the Nayagarh region. With Chilika and Ranapur being BJP’s stronghold, the saffron party seems to be consolidating  its vote base in four of the seven constituencies. Moreover, with lateral entrants from BJD, BJP has made every endeavour to shore up its vote base in Puri assembly segment.

However, the bumps before the saffron juggernaut is BJP had lost nearly 18,000 votes in Puri assembly segment in 2014 polls vis-a-vis 2009 polls, when Braja Kishore Tripathy was party’s Puri LS candidate. Former IPS officer Ashok Sahu was BJP’s Puri LS candidate in 2014. However, the big hint for the BJP is the saffron party had maintained a lead over Congress in the Puri assembly segment in 2014, despite Ashok Sahu being an outsider. Similarly, Pipili is another weak zone for BJP. However, the BJP is working overtime to woo Congress workers and vote bank to shore up its vote base after the intra party feud in Pipili.  In the same vein, the party is eyeing on Congress vote bank in Satyabadi courtesy the  fragile status of Congress party in the assembly segment. BJP is also working  hard to tap the anti-incumbency votes  in the assembly constituencies by projecting itself as a credible alternative to ruling BJD..

However, the road ahead is not that easy for BJP because, in the 2017 rural polls, BJD has virtually swept majority of Zilla Parishads (ZPs) coming under the Puri LS. BJP was only successful in bagging two ZPs in Nayagarh. But the vote share of BJP had posted a big rise in the rural polls and BJP had emerged as runners up to BJD, replacing Congress.

Sambit hopes to put a spoke in BJD’s wheel in 2019 elections  by highlighting  BJD’s flip-flops regarding the poor administration of  World famous Jagannath temple and the Modi wave post Balakot. The party is also using to its hilt its increased organisational strength in assembly segments under Puri LS.