In a move that might help the Biju Janata Dal win big in the ensuing simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in western Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday announced that he would contest from Kantabanji Assembly segment under Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency.

Patnaik would contest from Kantabanji along with his traditional Hinjili Assembly seat that comes under the Aska LS constituency in southern Odisha.

He had also contested from two Assembly seats in the 2019 elections – Hinjili and Bijepur segment under the Bargarh LS constituency in western Odisha. The BJD had won all the seven Assembly seats while the BJP had bagged the parliamentary seat riding on the Modi wave.

Significant decision

Patnaik’s decision to contest from Kantabanji assumes significance as Opposition BJP and Congress had performed well in the Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency in the 2019 elections. While the BJP had won the Lok Sabha seat along with one of the seven Assembly seats, the Congress had won two Assembly seats including Kantabanji, and the BJD had bagged four.

The BJD president’s move to contest from Kantabanji, one of the major business hubs in the western region, is being seen as both bold and courageous, in view of his age. The septuagenarian leader has sent out a clear signal that he is serious about his party’s victory in the coming polls, an outcome which would ensure his sixth consecutive term in power in Odisha and help him become the country’s longest-serving Chief Minister.

Patnaik’s focus on Balangir might help his party in other western Odisha LS constituencies such as Kalahandi, Bargarh, Sambalpur and Sundargarh and the Assembly seats coming under them. The BJP had won all the five LS seats bordering the Hindi heartland in 2019.

Patnaik also announced his party’s decision to swap its candidates in Rairakhol and Sambalpur Assembly seats under the Sambalpur constituency. Changing the earlier decision, Patnaik declared that senior leader Prasanna Acharya would contest from Rairakhol and former Minister Rohit Pujari would contest from Sambalpur. Former Congress leader Rajendra Kumar Chhatria would be BJD’s candidate for Kuchinda Assembly segment under the parliamentary seat.

In yet another tactful move, Patnaik announced that Arundhati Devi would be the BJD nominee for Deogarh Assembly seat under Sambalpur LS constituency. Devi is the wife of sitting Sambalpur MP and BJP leader Nitesh Ganga Deb who joined the BJD on Tuesday.

The Sambalpur constituency is set to witness a tough contest between Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and BJD’s organisational secretary Pranab Prakash Das. Pradhan has replaced Nitesh Ganga Deb as the BJP candidate for the parliamentary seat.