Agriculture, chit fund scam, and an inland waterway are the key polls issues in the Balasore Lok Sabha constituency, which goes to polls on April 29.
Incumbent BJD MP and industrialist Rabindra Jena, who was questioned by CBI in 2016 during its investigation into the chit fund scam, faces BJP’s Pratap Sarangi in the election. Sarangi has served as president of the Odisha Bajrang Dal unit and as a senior member of the state VHP unit. Sarangi, 64, is known in Odisha for his austere lifestyle and his activism against liquor consumption and for opening schools for poor and tribal communities.
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The Congress has fielded Nabajyoti, son of state party chief Niranjan Patnaik.
At villages in the Remuna Assembly segment, which is part of the Balasore Lok Sabha constituency, farmers say KALIA was a welcome relief, but add that correct price for produce is the long-term solution.
“No party has offered us the correct MSP for paddy, though Congress is ahead of others,” says Jayanta Siala, a farmer who cultivates two acres. “In 2015, the state government had calculated the input cost for a quintal of paddy as Rs 2,344. Rahul Gandhi has (in his recent rallies in Odisha) offered us Rs 2,600.”
Another issue on voters’ minds is the East Coast Canal, which has not been revived despite repeated promises. Opened for use in 1883, the canal was meant to facilitate the movement of goods from Paradip to Calcutta. Local residents say reviving the canal can also boost irrigation of farmlands and prospects for fishermen.
“Coast Canal is an issue of great importance on which no work has been done. Balasore has been affected by chit fund scams. Liquor has destroyed people because of the corrupt BJD government,” Sarangi says on campaign trail.
His rival Jena is saying, “We are Kshatriyas and know how to fight for Balasore. Sarangi lost the last election to me and disappeared for five years.”
According to a Congress leader in Balasore, “Nabajyoti is a political novice. But his candidature has revived the cadre here.”