The upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Bhubaneswar are expected to be closely watched as all three major parties are gearing up for a tough fight.

Bhaskar Parichha

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been making significant inroads in the state in recent years, is looking to expand its presence in Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency covering the capital city.

The ruling Biju Janata Dal, on the other hand, is aiming to retain its stronghold in the region and secure another term in office.

The Congress, which has been struggling to make a mark in Odisha, is hoping to make a comeback and regain some lost ground.

The political landscape in Bhubaneswar is complex, with a mix of urban and rural voters, as well as a diverse range of issues that are important to the electorate. The candidates will have to work hard to connect with voters and address their concerns in order to secure their support.

The outcome of the elections in Bhubaneswar could have a significant impact on the overall political scenario in Odisha and the country as a whole.

Fierce Competition
As the campaign heats up and the candidates hit the campaign trail, it will be interesting to see how they position themselves and what strategies they employ to win over voters. With the stakes high and the competition fierce, the Lok Sabha elections in Bhubaneswar are sure to be closely contested and closely watched by political observers and voters alike.

The victory of Aparajita Sarangi and the BJP in Bhubaneswar, in 2019 general elections, was seen as a major upset in Odisha politics, as the BJD had held a strong grip on the constituency for over a decade. Sarangi’s win was attributed to her clean image, administrative experience, and strong grassroots connect with the people of Bhubaneswar.

Prime minister Narendra Modi’s campaigning in Bhubaneswar also played a significant role in boosting the BJP’s chances in the constituency.

The BJP’s victory in Bhubaneswar was part of a larger trend in the 2019 elections, where the party made significant gains in Odisha, winning eight out of the state’s 21 Lok Sabha seats.

Aparajita Sarangi’s win in Bhubaneswar marked a turning point in Odisha politics, signaling the BJP’s growing influence in the state and its ability to challenge the dominance of the BJD. Sarangi’s victory also highlighted the changing political landscape in Odisha, where new faces and fresh ideas were gaining traction among voters.

What Happened in2019?
The BJD’s defeat in the Bhubaneswar constituency by the BJP was a significant political development that caught the attention of experts and analysts. One of the factors that contributed to this unexpected outcome was the absence of a Congress candidate in the race. This absence had a notable impact on the distribution of votes and ultimately worked in favor of the saffron party.

Traditionally, the Congress has been a prominent political force in the Bhubaneswar constituency. However, in this particular election, the party decided not to field a candidate, which created a void for its supporters. As a result, many Congress voters found themselves in a dilemma, unsure of where to direct their support.

In such a scenario, experts observed that a considerable portion of the Congress votes shifted towards the BJP rather than the Left parties, which would have been the more expected alternative. This unexpected shift in voter behavior played a crucial role in providing an advantage to the BJP and contributed to the BJD’s defeat.

It is worth noting that in 1996 Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, who is now a BJD rebel leader, was elected to the 11th Lok Sabha from Bhubaneswar seat in Congress ticket. This historical context further highlights the significance of the BJP’s victory in the Bhubaneswar constituency.

Past History
Bhubaneswar, the political hub of Odisha, has emerged as a weak spot for the Congress party, as voters have gradually distanced themselves from it. In the past, Bhubaneswar was a stronghold for the Congress party until 1971. However, winning the seat has become increasingly challenging over the last five decades due to changing political dynamics and local factors that influence electoral outcomes.

After the constituency was reoriented, Bhubaneswar saw its first Lok Sabha MP from the Congress party in 1957, with Nrusingha Charan Samantasinghar emerging victorious. The party was able to retain the seat for three consecutive terms, with Raja Purna Chandra Deo Bhanj winning in 1962 and Chintamani Panigrahi in 1967 and 1971.

However, the mood of Bhubaneswar voters shifted after the Emergency period. In 1977, the seat went to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) after the Congress party faced rejection at the national level by the Janata Party coalition. Between 1977 and 1996, Bhubaneswar alternated between choosing the Congress party and the CPM, with each party winning the seat three times.

However, starting from 1998, the party encountered a challenging task in holding onto the Lok Sabha seat. Following Soumya Ranjan Patnaik’s defeat to Prasanna Patsani of the BJD in 1998, the constituency became a stronghold of the BJD, successfully retaining it for the next three terms.

In 2019, it was Aparajita Sarangi, a dynamic member of the BJP, who put an end to that winning streak. Meanwhile, the Congress not only lost the seat but also its influence in the region. In the 2019 general elections, the party chose not to field any candidate from the seat and instead supported Janardan Pati, the CPI (M) candidate, as part of a seat-sharing agreement.

Despite the absence of a Congress candidate and the subsequent shift in voter support, the Congress still maintains some level of support in the constituency. However, it is evident that this support has been reduced over the years, and the party needs to strategize and regain its lost ground to remain a formidable force in the region.

Yasir Nawaz, a dynamic and ambitious leader, has been making waves in the political arena as the state president of the National Students Union of India (NSUI). With a strong background in student activism and a passion for social justice, Nawaz has quickly risen through the ranks to become a prominent figure in the political landscape.

Now, Nawaz is gearing up to compete in the upcoming elections against formidable opponents such as Aparajita Sarangi from the BJP and Manmath Routray from the BJD.

Routray’s Entry
Manmath Routray, the son of Suresh Routray, is relying on the support of his father. Suresh Routray, a well-known leader in Odisha for his witty political banter and sarcasm, is actively involved in his son’s election campaign. The experienced politician is spearheading the campaign efforts for his son in a creative way.

Having served as a six-time MLA from the Jatani Assembly segment, Routray was recently expelled by the All India Congress Committee (AICC). Despite this setback, he is dedicated to devising various strategic approaches to ensure victory for his son Manmath, who is contesting for the Bhubaneswar seat in BJD ticket.

Analysts say political scenario in Bhubaneswar has always been a reflection of the changing political dynamics at the state and national level. It also must be seen from the perspective of voting behaviour of Bhubaneswar where polling used to be very low. In 1999, the polling rate was 47.43 pc which rose to 57.24 in 2004. In subsequent elections it rose marginally.

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

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