naveen patnaik

Clash of titans in Odisha’s big election fights turns up mixed results

The clash of heavyweights and greenhorns in Odisha’s keenly fought electoral battle of 2019 brought in a farrago of smiles and sobs for the contestants in the fray.

The outcomes turned out to be a mixed package where some titans held sway, others lost ground to newbies and yet in some cases, rank neophytes in politics won by massive margins.

Among the hugely successful, chief minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president Naveen Patnaik scored prodigious victories in the two assembly seats he contested- his bastion Hinjili (in Ganjam district) and Bijepur in western Odisha.

In Bijepur, Patnaik got 110604 votes, about 59.78 per cent of the total votes polled, trouncing BJP’s Sanat Kumar Gartia (BJP) by a margin of over 57,000. Patnaik coasted home in his own turf Hinjili, bagging a staggering 66.32 per cent of the votes and routing his nearest rival Pitambar Acharya of BJP by more than 60,000 votes.

In the Lok Sabha contests, BJP’s candidates found their mojo, recovering from a lacklsutre performance in 2014 where the party could win just one seat. Aparajita Sarangi who took voluntarily retirement from IAS and contested from Bhubaneswar on BJP ticket, outmaneuvered her opponent Arup Patnaik (BJD), an ex IPS, by 23800 votes.

BJP’s Suresh Pujari staged an upset over BJD heavyweight and former Lok Sabha MP Prasanna Acharya, winning by 63,939 votes in Bargarh. Sangeeta Singhdeo, also from BJP, left sitting Bolangir MP Kalikesh Narayan Singhdeo with bruised ego, usurping the seat in a close contest. Another sitting BJD MP Rabindra Jena conceded the Balasore Lok Sabha seat to BJP’s Pratap Sarangi. Cabinet minister and incumbent MP from Sundargarh Jual Oram retained his seat. Other BJP leaders- Basant Panda (Kalahandi) and Nitesh Ganga Deb (Sambalpur) gave scares to BJD’s candidates, resulting in a near whitewash of Parliamentary polls in western Odisha.

2019 elections, however, piled up miseries for sitting Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda. Panda, a one-time BJD loyalist had jumped fences to the BJP and was promptly obliged with a ticket as well as the posts of BJP vice president and national spokesperson. Panda, who had triumphed from Kendrapara in 2014 by over 100,000 votes was humiliated by Odia cinestar Anubhav Mohanty handpicked by Naveen Patnaik as BJD candidate. Mohanty mauled Panda, winning by an immense margin of 152,584 votes.

BJP’s spokesperson Sambit Patra, fielded from Puri, showed signs of a new giant killer in the making. But Patra, finally, had to cave in to the experienced campaigner- BJD’s Pinakhi Mishra, albeit by a slender margin of more than 11,000 votes. Puri’s electoral contest saw fortunes swinging either way unlike 2009 and 2014 when Mishra won without much ado.

The startling takeaway from Odisha’s Lok Sabha polls is debutante Pramila Bisoyi, a self-help group (SHG) worker chosen by BJD from Aska where she won by an enormous margin of 204,707 votes.

Noted educationist Achyuta Samanta, founder of KISS and KIIT, also making his electoral debut from tribal infested Kandhamal on a BJD ticket, drubbed his nearest rival Kharabela Swain of BJP with a margin of 149,216.

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