Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Dharmasala, Apr 7:
This election all eyes are on Dharmasala Assembly constituency which goes to polls in the second phase elections in Odisha.
The incumbent legislator from Dharmasala and Panchayati Raj minister, Kalpataru Das has managed to get his elder son Pranab Balabantaray a BJD ticket for the seat after getting himself elected to the Rajya Sabha.
Kalpataru, who is actually fighting the poll war on behalf of his son Pranab, is not willing to leave anything to chance and using every trick in the trade to make sure his son heads the fiefdom he has created in Dharmasala over the last 20 years.
Eight candidates are in the fray in the Dharmasala Assembly constituency and of them seven are party candidates while only one is an independent.
While Kalpataru’s son and Yuva BJD’s state general secretary Pranab Kumar Balabantaray is the BJD candidate, PCC general secretary Srinath Mishra is contesting the seat on a Congress ticket.
Former Dharmasala block chairman Ramesh Chandra Parida is contesting as the BJP candidate, Prabhakar Nayak of the OJM, Gobind Sahu of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Akshay Das of the SUCI, Chandramani Nayak of the Samata Kranti Dal and Nirmal Rout, president Dharmasala Yuva Manch ( Independent) are also in the fray.
Dharmasala has been sending non-Congress legislators to the Assembly since 1990. Voters of this constituency had twice elected Kangali Charan Panda to the Assembly in 1980 as an independent candidate and in 1985 as a Congress candidate.
In 1990, Janata Dal candidate Gurucharan Tikait was elected from here.
Kalpataru Das has been elected from this seat four times in a row since 1995. He was first elected in 1995 on a Janata Dal ticket and since then on BJD ticket.
This time, the voters of Dharmasala will be missing a fight between the traditional rivals in this constituency – Kalpataru and Kangali.
Pranab is busy fortifying party organization in Dharmasala using Naveen Patnaik government’s so-called clean image and his father Kalpataru’s developmental works in the region as his poll plank.
Similarly, Congress candidate Srinath Mishra is organizing meetings of party workers and covering villages to seek votes. After working as the president of the Jajpur district Congress committee for a long time, Mishra was recently appointed as PCC general secretary.
Mishra who contested this seat in 1995 on a Congress ticket had managed to get a paltry 5,248 votes. Kalpataru had beaten independent candidate Kangali Charan by a slender margin of 2028 votes in that election.
In 2000 elections Srinath had polled 9774 votes as a Trinamool Congress candidate whereas Kangali lost to Kalpataru by a margin of 19,350 votes.
Many consider Srinath to have been a liability for the Congress in Dharmasala and accuse him of helping Kapataru’s rise and repeated success in electoral battles.
Ramesh Chandra Parida, who also contested the seat on a BJP ticket in the last elections, had polled only 5,341 votes. This time he is banking on the Modi wave to brighten his fortunes.
Akshay Das who is contesting on a SUCI ticket is the state president of the AIDSO, the party’s student wing. As a youth leader Das has had on many occasions taken to the streets on local issues and problems of Dharmasala.
A total of 1,98,022 voters of Dharmasala will decide the fate of these candidates in the second phase polls on April 17.