Bhubaneswar, Oct 7 :
The Kandhamal Lok Sabha constituency in Odisha will witness a triangular contest involving the ruling BJD, the Congress and the BJP in the Oct 15 byelection.
The election was necessitated by the death of Biju Janata Dal’s Hemendra Chandra Singh.
While the ruling party has fielded his widow Pratyusha Rajeswari, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have respectively fielded former MP Rudra Madhav Ray and former legislator Abhimanyu Behera.
Rajeswari is a political greenhorn. Ray, 77, was a member of the state assembly thrice between 1990 and 2009 before getting elected to the Lok Sabha on the BJD ticket in 2009.
The BJD, however, denied him the ticket in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and later suspended him for anti-party activities. The BJP fielded him after he joined the party.
Behera, 59, was a Congress member of the state assembly from Phulbani in 1985-90.
The Kandhamal constituency is made up of seven assembly segments spread over four districts: Kandhamal, Boudh, Nayagarh and Ganjam. It has 1,141,735 voters.
Although there are seven candidates in the fray, the main contest is likely to involve the BJD, the Congress and the BJP, political analysts said.
While the BJD is banking on the image of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and a sympathy wave for its candidate, the opposition feels the BJD is facing its worst ever image crisis due to a major chit fund scam and a mining scam.
“The way people are responding to our candidate, we are hopeful we will win with a bigger margin. People have faith in Naveen Patnaik,” said Pratap Keshari Deb, a senior BJD leader and party spokesman.
The ruling party has deputed over a dozen ministers and a large number of legislators to oversee the campaign.
The party organised in the past week several roadshows, marches and public meetings where party leaders and activists blew conch, the BJD symbol.
Naveen Patnaik is expected to campaign later this week.
The BJP is equally confident of victory.
“The BJP will win because of a wave in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi across India,” senior party leader Ashok Sahu told IANS.
“Also, the declining popularity of the chief minister due to the chit fund and mining scams will help us.”
The BJP has roped in two central government ministers, Jual Oram and Dharmendra Pradhan, in the campaign.
The main opposition Congress claims people will reject both the BJD and the BJP.
“Voters are showing interest in the Congress. We are hopeful,” state Congress president Jayadev Jena said.
In the 2014 general election, the BJD secured 421,458 votes, leaving the Congress and the BJP in the second and third spots with 240,441 and 108,744 votes respectively.