Union Tribal Affairs Minister and veteran BJP leader Jual Oram has locked horns with two party hoppers — Congress’ George Tirkey and BJD’s Sunita Biswal — to retain the Sundargarh Lok Sabha constituency, the only seat the BJP had won in Odisha in 2014.
While Mr. Tirkey, a prominent tribal leader, joined the Congress recently, Ms. Biswal, daughter of former CM Hemananda Biswal, switched over to the BJD from the Congress just before the elections.
Sundargarh comprises seven Assembly seats — Sundargarh, Talsara, Rajgangpur, Biramitrapur, Rourkela, Raghunathpali and Bonai. It is a tribal-dominated constituency where the BJP has won four times in seven Lok Sabha elections held since 1991.
Mr. Oram, a four-time MP, had won three consecutive terms in the 1998, 1999 and 2004 elections. He had been appointed Union Tribal Affairs Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999. In 2009, he lost to senior Congress leader Hemananda Biswal but won it back in a tightly contested election in 2014.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi have already addressed two massive public meetings here. Not lagging behind, CM Naveen Patnaik addressed three public meetings and held two roadshows last week.
Sundargarh being a tribal belt, the identity of the candidates will come into play during the elections.
Mr. Oram considers himself in advantageous position due to the “popularity” of Mr. Modi among the youth. He is also banking on a number of central projects. Moreover, he had taken care to stay connected with the people of his constituency.
Sunita Biswal is no novice in politics. She said the Chief Minister’s clean image and the BJD’s strong grassroots-level organisation would be advantageous for her. Moreover, the BJD’s emphasis on 33% reservation for women in selection of Lok Sabha candidates would also generate huge support for her, she said. Mr. Tirkey on the other hand has been a vocal advocate of implementation of Panchayats act. He has been fighting for the right of self-determination by tribals.