Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Mar 25:
With the announcement of the Congress candidate for the Kendrapada Lok Sabha seat, all speculation about Union Minister and Congress campaign committee chief for Odisha Srikant Jena contesting from the seat has now been laid to rest.
Now, Jena has to contest from Baleswar Lok Sabha constituency, where he is the sitting MP, even though the election wind is blowing against him since many senior leaders have already deserted the party.
Jena had tried hard to change his constituency and contest from Kendrapada, his home turf. He hoped that he could easily sail through here with the help of dissidents in BJD, who do not want to send BJD nominee Baijayant Panda to the Lok Sabha for the second time from this constituency.
However, all his plans went awry after the party high command refused to accord the privilege of changing the constituency citing that it may send a wrong signal to the public about the party, which is suffering from desertion for the last one month.
It is to be noted that the AICC renominated Sanjay Bhoi for Bargarh constituency despite the opposition of four local MLAs, who had aired their views before the party top boss.
According to a senior leader of the party, the high command refused to entertain to the plea of Jena citing that a sitting MP has to contest from the seat and change of constituency for the campaign committee chief, who is being projected as the undeclared chief minister candidate of the party for Odisha, will not send out the right signal to the public in the ensuing polls.
Kendrapada constituency was last represented by Congress years back in 1952 by Nityananda Kanungo. Since then, the seat has turned into a citadel of anti-Congress leaders. Anti-Congress leaders like Surendranath Dwibedy, Biju Patnaik, Rabi Ray and Pravat Samantaray have managed to win against the Congress candidates here more than twice.
Several prominent Congress leaders like Basant Biswal, Bhagabat Mohanty, Surendra Mohanty, Batakrushna Nayak, Union Minister Srikant Jena and Archana Nayak had tried their luck for the prestigious seat, but in vain. Even though Union Minister Srikanta Jena was elected as the MP of Kendrapara in the 11th Lok Sabha elections, it was on a Janata Dal ticket.
However, political analysts feel that Congress leader perhaps agreed to contest from Baleswar after Arun Dey was denied a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha seat by the BJD. Besides, the party has decided not to field former Law Minister Raghunath Mohanty from Basta Assembly constituency following his entanglement in dowry torture case.
Dey, who was strongly tipped to be named the BJD candidate for the Balasoere Lok Sabha constituency to take on Union minister Srikant Jena, was denied a ticket. He had contested against Jena on NCP ticket in 2009 elections.
A few days back, Dey had joined the ruling party hoping a BJD ticket from the constituency. Meanwhile, Dey has severed all links with the party blaming that candidates chosen for the Balasore Lok Sabha constituency and various Assembly segments under it have little chance of winning and would spell doom for the party.
While the Congress is yet to announce candidate for the Baleswar Sadar, Dey has announced he would contest from the seat, probably on a Congress ticket that will definitely help Jena.
“While Dey will cut the vote share of BJD, Raghunath Mohanty does not have the best of relations with Rabindra Jena, the BJD candidate for the Lok Sabha seat. Since both the leaders Raghunath and Rabindra belong to Basta, they don’t see eye to eye. Besides, Mohanty has a strong base in the district,” said an analyst.