Odisha’s prestigious Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency is witnessing a fierce triangular contest among two political novices representing the Biju Janata Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and a senior leader of the Communist Party of India(Marxist).
Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik is the BJD nominee, while former IAS officer Aparajita Sarangi is the BJP candidate. Senior CPI(M) leader Janardan Pati is the third major contender. The Congress has shared the seat with the Left party.
While Mr. Patnaik and Ms. Sarangi are new to politics, Mr. Pati has headed his party’s Odisha unit for 24 years – from 1991 to 2015. Mr. Pati is contesting the Assembly or Lok Sabha election for the first time like his two main rivals.
Since the Assembly polls are being held simultaneously, the three candidates have started campaigning across the seven Assembly segments coming under the Bhubaneswar Parliamentary seat – Bhubaneswar Central, Bhubaneswar North, Ekamra-Bhubaneswar, Jayadev, Jatani, Khurda and Begunia. Apart from addressing public meetings, they have started door-to-door campaign at different localities braving a harsh summer.
Mr. Patnaik and Ms. Sarangi are campaigning in close coordination with the Assembly candidates of their respective parties. Mr. Pati is sharing dais with the Congress nominees, apart from independently holding meetings and rallies. Ms. Sarangi, a Bihar born 1994-batch Odisha cadre IAS officer, is married to Santosh Sarangi, Odisha cadre IAS officer of the same batch.
He is still in service and is posted in New Delhi where Ms. Sarangi was posted before resigning.
While the BJD nominees for the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats are highlighting the achievements of the Naveen Patnaik government during the past 19 years in the State to garner votes, the BJP leaders are seeking support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership. Mr. Pati has been critical of both the BJP and BJD.
Coming to the use of social media, Mr. Patnaik is not active on Twitter, though he has opened an account this month. Ms. Sarangi is active on social media and has 15,000 followers on Twitter. She had joined Twitter in October last year, a month before she took voluntary retirement from service and joined the BJP in November. Mr. Pati is also not very active in social media. Mr. Patnaik, a 1979 batch IPS officer, had joined the BJD last year after his retirement in 2015.
The BJD candidate, Prasanna Kumar Patasani, had bagged the Bhubaneswar LS seat in 2014 election by a margin of over two lakh votes defeating actor-turned politician Bijay Mohanty who contested as a Congress nominee.
The BJP candidate, Prithviraj Harichandan, won over one lakh votes to finish third.
Mr. Patasani, who was denied a party ticket to contest this election, has not quit the BJD like several others. He is campaigning for his party nominees in different parts of the State. Mr. Mohanty is not active in politics at present, and Mr. Harichandan is contesting as a BJP nominee from the Chilika Assembly segment under the Puri Lok Sabha constituency to make space for Ms. Sarangi.
In such a situation, all the three are trying hard towin the seat. The BJP is expecting to win by garnering more votes since the Congress has not fielded its own candidate.
Mr. Pati is also hoping for victory since his party has an old base in the region. Veteran CPI(M) leader Sivaji Patnaik had won the Lok Sabha seat in 1977, 1989 and 1991.
Mr. Patnaik’s supporters are also confident of winning the seat this time again as the region has been a BJD stronghold for a long time. The BJD had also won all the seven Assembly seats when elections were also held simultaneously in 2014.
Polling is scheduled to be held in the constituency in the third phase in the State on April 23.