The state of Odisha has always been a stronghold for the Biju Janata Dal (BJD). In Naveen Patnaik’s 22 year-long political career, he has always been on the ruling side. The party had won 20 out of 21 seats in last Lok Sabha polls when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was riding high on the Modi waves. But this time, the political battle in Odisha has become fierce and intense like never before. With Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaving no stones unturned to expend its footprint in the coastal state, the ruling BJD on the other hand is trying every bit it could to maintain its grip in the state.
But interestingly, the Naveen Patnaik's party in its latest statement has said that it is "equidistant" from both the Congress and the BJP and that it will decide whether to support the BJP-led national alliance or not based on what is promised to Odisha. The Biju Janata Dal's stand was spelled out a day after exit poll results for Odisha showed Patnaik's party neck-and-neck with the BJP.
In the past few years, the BJD had been supporting the BJP on various issues. As recent as last year, the BJD walked out of the Lok Sabha to avoid participation in the debate on the no trust motion against the Narendra Modi government. BJD was probably the only opposition party that had put its weights behind the Central government during demonetisation and GST.
Naveen had a stable partnership with the BJP in Odisha from 2000 to 2009. The alliance broke after communal clashes spread across Odisha’s Kandhamal district following the assassination of Swami Lakshamananda, a Hindutva ideologue who was active against Christian missionaries. Now, Naveen faces the biggest challenge from the same BJP.
With the final results of 17th Lok Sabha polls inching in, here we bring to you some of the prominent faces from Odisha who could play a pivotal role in the final tally:
Key contests of 2019 Lok Sabha Elections in Odisha
1. Basanta Kumar Panda (BJP) Vs Bhakta Charan Das (Congress) Vs Pushpendra Singh Deo (BJD)
Bhakta Charan Das will again try to win Kalahandi seat in 2019 as he will take on BJP's Basanta Kumar Panda and BJD's Pushpendra Singh Deo. In 2014, BJD candidate Arka Keshari Deo won the seat by defeating BJP's Pradeep Kumar Naik by 56,347 votes. Das came third in the 2014 elections. In the last eight elections, Das won the seat thrice in 1989, 1996 and 2009. The BJP also represented the seat thrice in 1998, 1999 and 2004 when they were in an alliance with the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD.
2. Jayaram Pangi (BJP) Vs Saptagiri Ulka (Congress) Vs Kaushalya Hikaka (BJD)
Koraput was a fiefdom of Congress leader Giridhar Gamang till 2009 when he lost the elections for the first time at the hands of BJD candidate Jayaram Pangi. Gamang represented the seat 8 times from 1972 to 1999 and left the seat for his wife Hema in 1999. Hema Gamang won the seat remained an MP till 2004 when Gamang again won the seat. In 2014, BJD's Jhina Hikaka defeated Gamang by 19,328 votes. Pangi, who defeated Gamang for the first time, is taking on the new BJD candidate this time. Gamang has also joined the BJP.
3. Jual Oram (BJP) Vs George Tirkey (Congress) Vs Sunita Biswal (BJD)
In the last seven elections, BJP leader and Union Minister Jual Oram represented Sundargarh four times in 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2014. Oram won the seat in an alliance with the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD every time barring 2014. In the last Lok Sabha polls, Oram defeated BJD's Dilip Kumar Tirkey and Congress veteran Hemananda Biswal. The BJD has decided to field Biswal's daughter Sunita from Sundargarh this time.
4. Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo (BJP) Vs Samarendra Mishra (Congress) Vs Kalikesh Singh Deo (BJD)
BJP's Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo and BJD's Kalikesh Singh Deo have been again pitted against each other by their respective parties in Bolangir. Sangeeta won the seat thrice in 1998, 1999 and 2004 whereas Kalikesh represented the seat twice in 2009 and 2014. In 2014, Kalikesh defeated Sangeeta by over 1 lakh votes. The Congress is also trying to win the seat this time by fielding Leader of Opposition in Odisha Assembly Narasingha Mishra's son Samarendra.
5. Sambit Patra (BJP) Vs Satya Prakash Nayak (Congress) Vs Pinaki Mishra (BJD)
It will be an election of spokespersons in Puri as BJP's Sambit Patra, BJD's Pinaki Mishra and Congress candidate Satya Prakash Nayak will be locking horns against each other. In 2014, BJD's Pinaki Mishra won the seat by a comfortable margin of over 2,63,000 votes. Braja Kishore Tripathy represented the seat four times in 1991 (as a Janata Dal candidate), 1998, 1999 and 2004 (as a BJD nominee).
6. Rudra Narayan Pani (BJP) Vs KP Singh Deo (Congress) Vs Mahesh Sahoo (BJD)
In 2014, BJD's Tathagata Satpathy defeated BJP's Rudra Narayan Pani by over 1,37,000 votes. Satpathy has decided to take a backseat this time and the ticket has been given to Mahesh Sahoo. The BJP has again fielded Rudra Narayan whereas the Congress will be trying to snatch the seat with KP Singhdeo's candidature. Satpathy represented the seat four times in 1998, 2004, 2009 and 2014 while KP Singh Deo won the seat six times in 1967, 1980, 1984, 1991, 1996 and 1999.
7. Prakash Mishra (BJP) Vs Panchanan Kanungo (Congress) Vs Bhartruhari Mahatab (BJD)
BJD's Bhartruhari Mahatab, who has represented the Cuttack seat five consecutive times in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014, is locked in a battle with BJP's Prakash Mishra and Congress candidate Panchanan Kanungo this time. Senior leaders Janaki Ballabh Patnaik and Srikant Kumar Jena also won the seat in the past. In 2014, Mahatab won the seat by defeating Congress candidate Aparajita Mohanty with over 3,06,000 votes.
8. Aparajita Sarangi (BJP) Vs Arup Patnaik (BJD)
BJD's five-time MP Prasanna Kumar Patasani from Bhubaneswar is not in the fray this time and the contest has been restricted between BJD's Arup Patnaik and BJP candidate Aparajita Sarangi. Patasani won the seat in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. The Congress last won the seat in 1996.