Mayank Mahapatra

Kendrapara, one of the 21 parliamentary constituencies in Odisha, is gearing up for a high-stakes showdown in the forthcoming general election. Winning this coastal stronghold, traditionally a Biju Janata Dal (BJD) bastion, has become a point of pride and prestige for both the ruling BJD and its main rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

With Odisha preparing for simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly elections in 2024, Kendrapara is set for voting on June 1st. This Lok Sabha seat encompasses seven assembly segments, all of which were clinched by BJD in 2019.

A riveting contest is anticipated as Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, BJP’s national vice-president and their candidate, seeks to recapture the Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat from BJD. In the last polls, Panda conceded the seat to BJD’s Anubhav Mohanty. Baijayant, a former two-time MP from Kendrapara representing BJD, faces competition from BJD’s Anshuman Mohanty and Congress’ Siddhartha Swarup Das.

Confident about his prospects, Panda highlighted the sweeping BJP momentum across both urban and rural sectors. He believes voters are keen on having Narendra Modi serve a third term as Prime Minister and predicts BJP’s victory on both national and state fronts.

Panda, who served as a Rajya Sabha member for BJD from 2000 to 2009 and later secured the Lok Sabha seat of Kendrapara twice, first as a BJD candidate in 2009 and then in 2014, switched allegiance to BJP in 2018. In the 2019 elections, he faced defeat at the hands of BJD’s Anubhav Mohanty by a significant margin of 1,81,483 votes.

Anshuman Mohanty, expressing confidence in BJD’s stronghold, emphasized the government’s developmental initiatives in Kendrapara. He anticipates overwhelming voter support for BJD, given its track record. Mohanty, a former MLA from Rajnagar who recently switched from Congress to BJD, is the son of a former associate of Biju Patnaik, who was expelled by Naveen Patnaik in 2001.

For BJD chief Naveen Patnaik, retaining control over Kendrapara is a matter of familial and political legacy. The constituency has remained a formidable fortress for the Patnaik family, with no opposition candidate managing to break their stronghold for nearly five decades.

Siddhartha Swarup Das, the Congress hopeful, exuded confidence in his party’s victory, pointing to the shortcomings of both the BJD and BJP governments in delivering tangible results for the people.

Kendrapara’s electoral fate will be sealed on June 1st during the 7th phase of Lok Sabha elections 2024, with results expected on June 4th.

(The author is a communication professional. Views expressed are personal.)