Independent will decide poll outcome in Nuapada assembly constituency

NUAPADA: As the countdown to the polling day begins, Nuapada Assembly segment presents an intriguing contest where sitting MLA Rajendra Dholakia will surely be tested.

Dholakia, a seasoned leader rooted in the grassroot politics of Nuapada, has formidable opponents this time. But that’s not the only challenge. In a region where the saffron wave is growing with the BJP deploying its towering leaders, the minister has his task cut out. Besides, he had faced dissidence from within the party too.

Dholakia faces Sarat Pattanayak, the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief and former Balangir MP. Also making it difficult for him will be Abhinandan Panda of the BJP.

Pattanayak was the Balangir MP for two terms, in 1991 and 1996, before delimitation of the constituency. The PCC chief has been highlighting BJD’s failure and talking about his contribution to Nuapada’s development including establishment of the Navodaya school in Tarbod, a TV station in Nuapada, improvement in rail connectivity besides the inauguration of Patora dam during his tenure.

In the midst of this intense fight, Opposition BJP has fielded newbie Abhinandan Panda against the two heavyweights. Backed by his father Basanta Panda, also BJP’s Kalahandi MP and former MLA from the seat, Abhinandan aims to leverage his father’s influence and network in his favour. He is also riding on BJP’s growing footprint, talking about the party manifesto such as MSP, end to migration, houses under PMAY and free rice which can work for voters of the constituency.

However, amidst the contest among the mainstream parties, it is Ghasiram Panda, the Independent candidate, who might play a definitive role. A member of the scheduled tribe (ST), Majhi has overwhelming support of his community. With ST votes constituting a substantial 43 per cent of the total electorate, his candidacy poses a formidable challenge to the other candidates.

Having contested in elections four times in the past, including under various party banners, Majhi is a dark horse. Apart from contesting as Independent in 2000 and from BSP in 2009, he was fielded by the Congress twice in 2014 and in 2019 elections. In the last election, Majhi secured 45,317 votes against Dholakia’s 65,647 votes to grab the second place. Majhi’s candidacy underscores the community’s quest for adequate representation. But what is important is Majhi has a pocket vote which has only grown over the years.

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