The fight in Balasore Lok Sabha seat is going to be interesting making the outcome crucial for all 3 key political parties, the BJP, BJD and Congress 

Bhaskar Parichha

The Balasore Lok Sabha seat in Odisha is set to witness yet another three-way contest, with three prominent political parties putting forth their potential candidates.

Pratap Chandra Sarangi, a former Union minister and the incumbent MP, has been nominated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Srikant Kumar Jena, a former Union minister, will be representing the Congress party. Lekhashree Samantasinghar, who was previously associated with the BJP, has been chosen by the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

Past History
Balasore has a history of intriguing electoral outcomes, as voters have not shown permanent allegiance to any specific party or candidate. In the 2009 elections, despite receiving only 35.17% of the votes, Jena emerged victorious as the Congress candidate. He defeated his closest competitor, Arun Dey of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), while Kharabela Swain, the BJP nominee, secured the third position.

In the 2014 election, the BJD nominee secured 41.33% of the votes and won by a margin of 1.41 lakh votes, defeating the BJP candidate. However, in the 2019 election, the saffron party’s vote share increased significantly from 27.81% to 41.79%, surpassing the BJD due to internal divisions within the regional party.

Interestingly, the Congress witnessed a continuous decline in vote share, dropping from 35.17% in 2009 (when Srikanta Jena emerged victorious) to 15.5% in 2019.

Confident Sarangi
Sarangi, the incumbent BJP MP, expresses confidence in the positive efforts of the BJP-led NDA government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special focus on the development of Odisha.

On the other hand, Jena believes that the developmental work he carried out in Balasore during his previous tenure will contribute to his victory.

Lekhashree Samantasinghar, the BJD candidate, highlights Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s impeccable reputation and comprehensive development agenda.

Lekhashree’s Entry
Lekhashree Samantsinghar’s decision to join the ruling party has added an interesting dynamic to the Balasore contest. By welcoming her into the party, the BJD has successfully addressed two key objectives simultaneously.

The party has not only neutralized a prominent critic in Lekhashree, who was known for her vocal opposition to the ruling establishment, but has also taken steps to bring together all BJD factions in the Balasore LS constituency for a united front against the incumbent BJP MP Pratap Sarangi.

Prior to this development, the regional party had been facing challenges in finding a strong candidate after former BJD MP Rabindra Jena stepped back from the ticket race in compliance with the party’s ‘one family one ticket’ policy, as his wife Subasini Jena had already been nominated for the Basta Assembly segment.

Lekhashree’s admittance into the BJD brought a fresh perspective and a new wave of enthusiasm among party members. Her reputation as a dedicated and knowledgeable individual added credibility to the party’s image. With her background in academia and her strong connections within the community, Lekhashree was seen as a valuable asset to the BJD.

The party wasted no time in utilizing Lekhashree’s expertise and experience to their advantage. She was given key responsibilities in formulating policies and strategies for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Her presence also helped in attracting a new segment of voters who were impressed by her intellect and integrity.

As the election campaign gained momentum, Lekhashree emerged as a prominent face of the BJD, representing the party in debates and public appearances. Her articulate speeches and strong arguments resonated with the electorate, further boosting the party’s popularity.

It is anticipated that she will forge alliances with influential leaders, including the former MP and other BJD MLA candidates, in order to bolster the party’s electoral prospects and tilt the balance of power in favor of the BJD. Being a daughter-in-law of Nilagiri, she possesses the potential to put up a strong competition against Sarangi, who also hails from the same area.

To counter these challenges, Sarangi has already commenced touring the constituency and will need to adopt a multifaceted strategy that emphasizes development initiatives. He may also attempt to capitalize on any potential dissatisfaction or disillusionment among BJD supporters vis-à-vis Lakhashree’s switch of loyalty.

Jena’s Fate:
Srikanta Jena’s political background includes serving as a Member of Parliament for the Congress party in Odisha, as well as holding various positions within the party at the state level. This experience could potentially attract long-time Congress supporters who are familiar with his work and leadership style.

Additionally, his presence in the political arena could help to divide the opposition to the ruling BJP, as he may be able to garner support from other parties or factions within the opposition.

However, Jena’s effectiveness as a political leader will also depend on the organizational strength of the Congress party and its ability to present a united front against the BJP. The party’s internal dynamics, leadership structure, and overall strategy will play a crucial role in determining Jena’s success in mobilizing support and challenging the ruling party.

Ultimately, while Srikanta Jena’s background in politics may give him a certain level of credibility and appeal among Congress followers, his impact on the political landscape will be contingent on a variety of factors, including the party’s organizational capabilities and its ability to effectively position itself as a viable alternative to the BJP.

(The author is a senior journalist and columnist. Views expressed are personal.)