Khandapada: Congress Can Resurge in 2019

By Subhransu Panda, Bhubaneswar:


Someone may call me mad reading the title of this write-up. It’s obvious.

After going through this, you may or may not withstand my observation. But you can’t ignore the idea.

At the time, when congress biggies in Odisha are leaving the party one after another, I can see hope for country’s oldest party in many assembly constituencies in Odisha including Khandapada.

How?

The vote share of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Khandapada is decreasing continuously and significantly since the party was founded. In 2000, BJD candidate Bijayalaxmi Pattnaik won in Khandapada with record 70% vote share, highest percentage ever any party gained there. She didn’t get party ticket in 2004 and contested as an independent candidate. BJD candidate Banamali Dash lost to her.

BJD gained only 27% votes in 2004 election. In 2009, BJD candidate Siddharth Sekhar Singh won the battle with 55% votes. In 2014, BJD candidate Anubhav Patnaik won with only 47% vote share. And the losing candidate AOP’s Soumya Ranjan Patnaik also gained almost equal vote share.

When we can see an increasing number of voters in Khandapada over last two decades, why the ruling party’s vote share is being scaled down?

No idea about new voters. But major part of Khandapada’s traditional voters is Congress minded. And most of them are loyalists of the King’s family. Since ‘1952 Odisha assembly election’ Congress or independent candidates were winning continuously 9 times till 1985. In 1990 Janata Dal won in Khandapada for the first time. Again in 1995 Congress recaptured its turf.

From 1952 to 1967, Harihar Singh Mardaraj, the erstwhile king of Khandapada princely state, won consecutively 4 terms. His son Bibhuti Bhusan Singh Mardaraj was the assembly member from Khandapada consecutively twice, in 1980 and 1985. In 1995 again he won. His son Siddharth Sekhar Singh won in Khandapada with a BJD ticket in 2009. Out of 15 elections the King’s family has been acquired the crown 8 times.

When Siddharth Sekhar Singh joined BJD, his supporters remained in Congress and voted for Soumya Ranjan Patnaik in 2009.Soumya Ranjan gained 40% votes. In 2014 election, when Soumya Ranjan Patnaik floated his own party after ousted from congress, there was no alternative candidate from Congress. And Siddharth Sekhar Singh didn’t contest the election. So the traditional voters preferred to remain with Soumya Ranjan. Had Siddharth fought the battle, the result would have been something different in 2014.

Ok. Let’s come to the point.

Now in changing political atmosphere, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, the biggest contender against the party, joined BJD and sent to Rajya Sabha this month. One can easily assume that BJD will gain almost 100% votes in next election if there is no strong rival.

According to source, in 2019 assembly election, BJD may field the sitting MLA Anubhav or someone from Somya Ranjan’s family. If Anubhav is the candidate, many Soumya-supporters may not support him and there will be a revolution within the party.

For instance, the former Khandapada block chairman Sisir Sahoo – earlier he was with Anubhav and later joined Soumya Ranjan – will no way support Anubhav again. Sisir Sahoo was opposing Anubhav even, when he was declared as candidate before election. I am quoting Times of India from March 21,2014 – Sisir Sahoo said, We don’t know on what grounds his candidature was dismissed. Sidharth Sekhar Singh is a popular leader and his performance is quite satisfactory in the last five years. 

Bhapur unit BJD vice chairman Gayadhar Parida was too opposing Anubhav’s candidature before 2014 election. He saidour party organization under Siddharth Sekhar Singh’s leadership got a boost in the last five years. A new face may not be well-accepted in the public. Even recently Gayadhar was revolting against Anubhav’s leadership.

And the hardcore anti-BJD and anti-Anubhav workers and traditional congress voters will prefer to keep distance from BJD.

But till now there is no taker for these unclaimed votes. Congress has not yet adopted any new and promising face for Khandapada.

After 2014 election, just for a change, Siddharth joined BJP, but didn’t gained popularity. Even his family’s traditional voters didn’t prefer to support BJP. That has been proved in last Panchayat election.

If Siddharth joins Congress, Khandapada will experience sea changes in 2019. Many Soumya-supporters (migrated from Congress) would make a comeback to Congress and the dissatisfied-BJD-men may support Siddharth.

However, if someone from Soumya Ranjan’s family gets the BJD ticket for Khandapada in 2019, the fight would be tougher.

But one can’t rule out a chance for Congress, if the game played well.


Subhransu Panda is an author and journalist. He can be reached at [email protected] and 9338655845.

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