BJD faces the challenge of regaining the prestigious Puri assembly seat

Puri: After losing the prestigious Puri assembly constituency to the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019, the Biju Janata Dal is determined to regain it this year. It is making every effort to keep dissent at bay and garner maximum support to win back the seat.

In 2019, BJD veteran leader and former minister Maheshwar Mohanty lost to BJP’s Jayant Sarangi by a narrow margin. However, after Mohanty’s demise, BJD has nominated his son Sunil Mohanty for the seat this year. To ensure Mohanty Jr’s victory and curb dissent, the BJD nominated Maheshwar Mohanty’s chief critic Subhasis Khuntia to the Rajya Sabha, while Dibakar Patra was posted as the district party president.

Also, on Monday, the ruling party promoted Daita Sevak Ramakrishna Dasmahapatra by appointing him as one of the state general secretaries, Arun Kumar Mishra and Pritam Jagdeb as vice-presidents of the BJD state youth wing. Besides this, a nine-member body of senior leaders, including two former civic body chairpersons, has been formed to oversee the election campaign.
Fourteen candidates are in the fray in this election. Sujit Mahapatra, whose Congress ticket was cancelled, is now contesting the elections as an independent candidate. However, with the entry of Congress’s Umaballav Rath, the fight between BJD, BJP has finally become triangular.
‘Puri seat was historically a Janata Party stronghold, before which it went to Janata Dal and later to BJD until BJP’s Sarangi won it last time. Sarangi had won the last election by securing 76,747 votes as against Mohanty’s 72,739 votes.
Sarangi, whose voter base is the servants of Srimandir, is in a tough spot as Harekrishna Simhari, an influential servant, has jumped into the fray as an independent. Before joining the BJP in 2019 just before the elections, Sarangi was in the BJD and served as the president of the Puri civic body. A disciple of Maheshwar Mohanty, Sarangi played an important role in almost all the development works of Puri during his five-year tenure as MLA.
Congress candidate Rath, known for his organizational skills and polite demeanor, is expected to make a dent in both the BJD and BJP vote banks. He won an important victory in his fight against the Vedanta University project. He has supporters mainly in the area where the university project was being planned, but he may get some help in other parts of the Puri Sadar constituency. Their late enrollment can also be a problem.
‘The upcoming elections are important for all parties involved. BJD is trying to regain the seat from BJP, while BJP aims to strengthen its position. Congress hopes to make a mark in the electoral scenario with its new candidate.
BJD would like to focus on the Shri Jagannath Parikrama Project and other infrastructure initiatives, adding another dimension to the election discussion. Political analysts closely monitoring the situation believe that the ruling party should remain alert to possible sabotage from within, as experienced in the 2019 elections.

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