Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday said he regrets having nominated Baijayant Panda as BJD candidate from Kendrapara Lok Sabha seats twice and supporting his elections in 2009 and 2014. Panda, who had last year resigned from ruling BJD, recently joined BJP and is contesting from Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat as a saffron party candidate this time.
I had assigned a young and highly educated person the task of development of Kendrapara. However, he (Panda) betrayed the people and worked for himself,” Patnaik alleged ahead of a roadshow in the constituency which goes to the polls in the fourth and last phase on April 29. “However, the people of Kendrapara will never spare the traitor, said Patnaik who is making all-out efforts for Panda’s defeat. Simultaneous polls are on for Lok Sabha and state assembly in Odisha. Assuring the people of Kendrapara that development of the district is his responsibility, Patnaik, who has been the chief minister since 2000 and is seeking a fifth term this time, said he will now personally monitor it.
The chief minister said this time he has nominated an educated and popular man, who will work for the development of Kendrapara. BJD has pitted its Rajya Sabha MP and cine star Anubhav Mohanty against Panda. Panda rejected the allegations made by Patnaik. He said in a Twitter post: “Sad to see how Naveen has been hoodwinked by his coterie! “One of the greatest proponents of the Haridaspur-Paradip rail project was Biju uncle (Naveen Patnaik’s father Biju Patnaik) himself! “This 40 yr old dream for Kendrapara remained on paper till I become MP, pushed it thru with hundreds of review meetings,” he said.
Streets wearing deserted look, shops downing shutters, motley groups of people engrossed in animated discussion in street corners and village tea shops. All these sum up the scene in Kendrapara, which is voting on Monday to elect the next Member of Parliament. High profile candidate Baijayant Panda, who won the seat in 2014 for BJD, is contesting on a BJP ticket this time. BJD has fielded Anubhav Mohanty against him.
For a casual visitor, the scene may appear unusual. A day before the ‘prestige’ poll battle in Kendrapara parliamentary seat and seven assembly segments, a peculiar silence prevailed in village after village.
As political discourse in Kendrapara parliamentary constituency, witnessing the most absorbing electoral battle, is to be settled in the fourth phase of the 2019 elections, people from far-flung villages to the urban centres of Kendrapara, Salipur and Pattamundai had been eager to take part in the grand finale.
Majority of the shops downed their shutters along the busy Cuttack-Chandaballi highway and the Paradip-Daitary expressway on Sunday. The shops and business places also wore a deserted look as people started leaving for their respective villages to take part in the voting. Buses plying in the area could be seen crowded, ferrying voters to their homes.
And everybody seemed to have turned into psephologists and political pundits.
The coastal district, which has sent political heavyweights like legendary Biju Patnaik and former Lok Sabha Speaker Rabi Ray to don the mantle of lawmakers, is widely regarded for being home to poll-crazy and politically-conscious voters.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that permutation, combination and complex arithmetic of battle of ballot stay on the top of agenda in every conceivable street corners of the district.
The unusually aggressive and combative campaigning by BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik seeking votes for his symbolic entity Anubhav Mohanty (the BJD candidate) and his clarion call to voters to defeat BJP’s Baijayant Panda has provided intriguing twists and turns to the epic Lok Sabha poll battle.
“People are less interested here on the outcome on the Assembly seats. All eyes are on the Parliamentary polls as I have been told that Patnaik is fighting a personal battle against two-time Lok Sabha MP Panda who has switched allegiance to BJP. I have come to Kendrapara today and will cast vote tomorrow. Media is projecting it as a prestige battle. I also feel it a different election as talk on assembly election has been relegated to the rear,” Sangram Rout, an elector from Kendrapara town, said on Sunday.
He, however, said the “betrayal” theory that Patnaik had unleashed on his colleague-turned-foe (Panda) was not going to have an impact on the common voters.
“I will be vote for prestige and development,” said a voter from Rajnagar, Rajendra Das.
Four-time MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda faces the toughest test of his political career with tough and sturdy contest from political opponents — BJD’s cinestar-turned-politician Anubhav Mohanty and Congress’s lawyer-turned-politician Dharanidhar Nayak.
The hordes of ruling BJD leaders and BJP members who had been camping here left Kendrapara ahead of the polling as per the Election Commission guidelines that say non-voters should vacate the constituency a day before polling.
The BJP had repeatedly requested for deployment of central paramilitary forces apprehending rigging and violence by the ruling BJD. The BJD too had asked for increased deployment of forces to avert violence.
Chief Electoral Officer Surendra Kumar said additional forces had been deployed and strict vigil was being maintained in Kendrapara.