Odisha LS polls: As BJP and BJD go solo, all eyes are on Sundergarh and Sambalpur seats

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) finally decided to go alone in Odisha after its talks with the BJD failed. After this, the BJP cut the tickets of four of its sitting MPs, including the Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs and Jal Shakti, Bisheshwar Tudu. The party, however, fielded Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan from the Sambalpur seat in place of sitting MP Nitish Gang Dev, who is now a Rajya Sabha MP.

Apart from Tudu, the other three sitting MPs who failed to get a ticket include Basant Kumar Panda from Kalahandi, Suresh Pujari from Bargarh, and Nitish Gang Dev from Sambalpur. Former Union ministers Jual Oram and Pratap Sarangi have been once again given a ticket to contest from the Sundergarh and Balasore Lok Sabha seats, respectively.

The BJP-BJD alliance did not happen

It may be noted that hopes of an alliance between the BJP and BJD were raised because Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had, on many occasions, supported the Modi government in Parliament on important national issues. The BJD had separated from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the year 2009.

According to sources, the alliance did not happen as the BJP did not agree with the BJD government on several issues related to the ‘interests of the Odia people’ such as ‘Odia identity’ and ‘Odia pride’. Additionally, there was a deadlock over seat sharing too, which led to the chances of an alliance falling apart. The 21 Lok Sabha and 147 Assembly seats of the state are going to the polls simultaneously.

Now both parties are focused on naming winnable candidates. The BJP has already held several surveys in the state to gauge the public mood and is thus distributing tickets accordingly.

Importance of Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat

In the Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat, which is said to be the epicentre of western Odisha, the BJP has fielded Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who returns to contest polls after a gap of 15 years. The 2024 LS polls are said to be the acid test for the BJP after an alliance with the BJD failed to materialise. The Sambalpur seat is set to see a high-profile contest after the ruling BJD fielded its organisational secretary and sitting Jajpur MLA, Pranab Prakash Das, against Pradhan. Sources say that Das, who is popularly called Bobby Das, was appointed as the district observer by BJD in March last year, as the party was expecting that the BJP would field Pradhan from the seat. Das, who is making his debut in Lok Sabha polls, is a close aide of CM Naveen Patnaik and knows the ins and outs of Sambalpur; thus, the seat will witness a tough fight in the polls.

According to political observers, if we talk about caste arithmetic, then the seat is dominated by the OBC Chasa (farmer) community to which Pradhan belongs, and thus the BJP is confident that the seat will go in its favour.

Will BJD be able to open its account in Sundergarh?

Similarly, the BJP has fielded Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey to contest against senior BJP leader and former Union minister Jual Oram from the Sundergarh seat. Tirkey is a famous face not only of Sundergarh but also of state hockey. If we look at the victory record of this seat, then, to date, the BJD has not won the Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat. Whereas, as a national party, Congress has won seven times. On the other hand, the BJP’s Jual Oram has won this seat 5 times so far.

Meanwhile, the fight for 2024 is likely to be fierce here, as the Sundargarh seat is dominated by Oram, who has been a three-time MP and two-time Union Minister. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Jual became MP for the fifth time by a margin of more than 2 lakh votes and got more than 5 lakh votes. Dilip Tirkey got 3 lakh 21 thousand 679 votes in the 2014 elections. It may be noted that the Congress won this seat in 1991, 1996 and 2009 while the BJP won in 1998, 1999, 2004, and 2014.

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