Will ex- top cop pilot BJP win in Cuttack LS in 2019 polls?

Bhubaneswar: The battle for Cuttack in 2019 has an interesting aside. The clash here will be between a top cop and politicians, when the usual frame in public mind space is the kowtowing nature of cops before politicians.

While former DGP of Odisha Police, Prakash Mishra, is BJP’s nominee from the Cuttack Lok Sabha (LS) seat, BJD has re-nominated five-time MP Bhartruhari Mahtab. Congress has made veteran politician and former finance minister in BJD government, Panchanan Kanungo, its face in the LS seat.

Bhartruhari Mahatab has the legacy of former Odisha CM Harekrushna Mahatab and Panchanan Kanungo was three-time MLA from the then Gobindpur Assembly Constituency (AC) (now in Niali AC) under Cuttack LS seat. He was in State politics since 1969. In contrast, Prakash Mishra is a novice in politics. But he seems to be posing a formidable challenge to the veteran politicians in the LS seat.

Though it’s a three-cornered contest on paper, the main battle in the LS seat will be between Prakash Mishra and Bhartruhari Mahatab. As the Congress party’s vote share has gradually being downsized in the assembly segments of Cuttack Sadar and Choudwar-Cuttack over the years, Kanungo has an uphill task at hand in the LS seat. In addition to its woes in Cuttack, the Congress party has also lost its vote base in a big way in Baramba and Athagarh to BJP.

Though a look at the voting trend of the Cuttack LS seat reveals it to be a Congress stronghold, the voters here had also gone by the national trend in polling out Congress. Congress had bitten dust in 1977 (anti-emergency agitation), 1989 (Bofors scam) and 1998 (Vajpayee wave). Since 1998, Cuttack LS seat has, however, turned an impregnable BJD fort. But post Balakot craze, the moot point now is will the trend once again see a repeat in the LS constituency in 2019?

Moreover, another significant pointer to fore is the LS constituency has given more votes to national parties in LS elections, but in assembly polls BJD polled more votes than it polled in the same assembly segments for the LS poll.

For instance, in Cuttack Choudwar BJD had polled over 85,000 votes in the assembly polls 2014. But the assembly segment saw nearly 25,000 fewer votes polled for BJD in the 2014 LS polls. An analysis shows BJD receiving 13,000 less votes in LS in Baramba. The vote-gap between assembly and Lok Sabha polls for BJD ranged from 1,000 to 25,000 across all the seven assembly seats.

Significantly, BJP hopes to wrest the seat from BJD solely on the fact that the saffron party in 2014 LS elections garnered nearly ‘double’ the votes it received in 2009. The BJP banks on this ‘double-engine’ vote growth to catch the victory destination in 2019.

But there seems to be a no free-ride for BJP. Though BJP is catching up fast with BJD in Cuttack Sadar, Choudwar Cuttack and Barabati Cuttack and Baramba, the party is lagging far behind BJD in Banki and Athagarh. However, BJP inroads have been noticed in Athagarh during the 2017 rural polls when BJP won a Zilla Parishad there.