Jay Panda & Anubhav Mohanty

Bhubaneswar: All eyes are glued on Kendrapada. A high profile electoral battle is going on in this Lok Sabha constituency in Odisha where polling will be held on April 29. The ruling BJD in Odisha is locked in a fierce fight with BJP, the ruling party at the Centre. And, interestingly the BJD has fielded party’s Rajya Sabha MP and Odiya film industry’s reigning super star Anubahav Mohanty against industrialist turned politician Baijayanat Panda(Jay Panda) of BJP.

Kendrapada being the BJD forte, the ruling party has made it prestige issue to retain its glory in the constituency. However, the BJD is facing a formidable challenge this time from Jay Panda. Jay, the two time BJD MP from the constituency on being humiliated left the party in huff and joined BJP last month to contest the election.

BJD, in fact, has launched a forceful campaign making it a prestige issue. Even though Jay has some advantage being the two time MP from the Lok Sabha constituency on BJD ticket, it would be an uphill task for him to convince the voters why he turned against the party. What is making his task more difficult is that the BJD is making a consistent attack on him exposing that being an MP he was working for the interest of his mining company IMFA and not Kendrapada.

Kendrapada, in fact, has become a no-hold-barred war between the BJD and BJP. Both the parties have lined up all their star campaigners to solicit votes. Film stars are also dazzling in road shows to attract the people on to the roads. Prime minister Narendra Modi addressed a massive rally in the constituency seeking vote for Jay. On the other BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik over stayed a night and hold number of road shows in his hi-tech bus covering almost all the seven assembly constituencies that fall under the Lok Sabha constituency.

In the din of the war cry, however, two main contending parties are forgetting the other stake holder in the constituency, Congress.

Dharnidhar Nayak

Given the Congress’ position in 2014 elections, the party had finished second in the Lok Sabha elections. This was despite the strong Modi wave.
If BJD’s Jay Panda got 6 lakh votes, Congress’ Dharanidhar Nayak had garnered nearly 4 lakh votes. The BJP had finished a distance third with a little over 1 lakh votes. Importantly, the Congress won in three of the seven assembly segments that fall under the Kendrapara LS constituency. Not only that the grand old party’s candidate Ganeswar Behera had narrowly lost (by 5000 votes) the Kendrapada assembly elections.

This time too, Congress has repeated Dharnidhar Nayak, an established advocate of Odisha High Court, in this LS election. Nayak’s advantage is that he is son of the soil. Congress’ sitting MLA Ansuman Mohanty is giving a tough fight to BJD’s Dhruba Sahu in Rajnagar assembly seat. Similarly, party’s sitting MLA Debendra Sharma is engaged in a direct fight with BJD’s Pratap Keshri Deb in Aul. It is another matter that Congress’ Salepur MLA Prakash Behera is contesting this time as BJP cadidate. But, Congress’ Ganeswar Behera is giving state finance minister and BJD’s Sashi Bhusan Behera a run for his money.

Given the ground realities, there is virtually a direct fight between Congress and BJD in many of the assembly segments of the Kendrapara LS constituency. In constituencies like Mahanga, Patkura, Salepur and Mahakalpada, the Congress candidates are giving a tough fight making it a triangular contests among the BJD,BJP and Congress.

In such a situation, it is very difficult to predict the voting pattern in the Kendrapada LS constituency. If Congress votes go to party’s candidate, then BJD has an advantage in the race for MP. If they prefer either BJD or BJP after casting their votes in favour of the MLA candidates, then it would be difficult to know who is going to be the victorious.