It’s not just western Orissa where Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is losing ground. Anti-incumbency and discontent among party workers over the choice of candidates may take a toll on the party in Naveen’s home district of Ganjam, where the party had won 11 of the 13 assembly constituencies in 2009 and both the Lok Sabha constituencies.
As campaigns for the first phase of polls in 10 Lok Sabha and 70 assembly constituencies, including those in Ganjam, came to a close this evening, BJD candidates in at least four constituencies had reasons to be nervous. The only constituency in Ganjam which was sure to go the BJD way was Hinjilicut where the chief minister is seeking re-election.
In Kabisuryanagar assembly constituency, where nine-time MLA V Sugnana Deo is seeking election for a record 10th time, her prospects are likely to be marred by the presence of expelled BJD leader Hara Prasad Sahoo who is contesting as an Independent. Though Deo, the erstwhile ‘queen’ of Khalikote, has been winning since 1961, this time she seems to be in a spot as her younger opponent attempts to stop her. “This election is against people who have lost touch with their electorate and those who terrorise voters. During cyclone Phailin, she did not come to the rescue of her voters,” said Sahoo, who took out a rally of over 500 motorcycles in Kodala town on Tuesday. Though few expected Deo to be challenged, the first indication came during last year’s civic poll when all her candidates, barring two, lost.
In Polasara assembly constituency, people are upset over the ticket to BJD’s Srikant Sahu. “He does not treat women workers with respect. Not a single woman is campaigning for him,” said a sarpanch.
In Chhatrapur, earlier held by BJD ally CPI, leaders are unhappy about the ticket to BJD’s Priyanshu Pradhan. Pradhan, a doctor in a Bhubaneswar hospital, is seen as an “outsider” and is alleged to have been given the ticket at the behest of revenue minister Suryo Patro. In Berhampur assembly constituency, party workers are upset over nomination of sitting MLA Ramesh Chandra Chyaupatnaik. During the Rajya Sabha polls in February, he came on a stretcher to vote. The day he got a party ticket, he was in hospital. “Why did the CM have to nominate a sick man? In all these days, he has campaigned just one day,” said a BJD worker. With Chyaupatnaik not able to campaign, the contest is between Bikram Panda of the Congress and Siba Shankar Das of the BJP.
In Berhampur Lok Sabha constituency, incumbent BJD MP and actor Siddhant Mohapatra is facing a tough fight from former union minister Chandra Sekhar Sahoo of the Congress. Locals allege Mohapatra didn’t stay in touch with his voters in the last five years.