Bargarh: With the Congress fielding a greenhorn, the Bargarh Lok Sabha seat is all set to witness a two-way battle between two heavyweights of the ruling BJD and the opposition BJP.
Congress has pitted Pradip Debata, a businessman, against BJD stalwart and sitting Rajya Sabha member Prasanna Acharya, and BJP national secretary Suresh Pujari in the backward constituency in western Odisha.
Fighting his maiden electoral battle, Debata is facing a tough fight at the hustings as both Pujari and Acharya are known for their oratory skills and political experience.
“The people in Bargarh are unhappy with the Naveen Patnaik-led government which has failed to bring development. Not a single industry has been set up in Bargarh,” alleged Debata.
However, his statements expectedly did not make much of a mark on Acharya. “Development is BJD’s main agenda. Our party symbolizes progress of all sections of society. I am highlighting the developmental works and the welfare measures of the state government while campaigning,” Acharya stated.
“The region has witnessed speedy development during BJD rule. People are now getting basic facilities such as proper road connectivity, drinking water and electricity,” added the sitting Rajya Sabha MP.
However, it will be an uphill task for the BJD to deal with anti-incumbency in this constituency. The party is already under attack from several quarters for a spate of farmer suicides allegedly due to factors such as debt burden, crop failure and distress sale of paddy.
The other issue which certainly is a worry for the BJD is BJP’s show in the 2017 Panchayat elections. The saffron party proved that it has become a formidable opposition in this district.
In a bid to tackle the saffron surge and woo the voters, the Chief Minister is contesting the Assembly elections from two seats this time. Apart from Hinjili in Ganjam district, Patnaik is in the fray from Bijepur Assembly segment, which comes under the Bargarh Lok Sabha constituency. The BJD hopes to derive electoral gains from Patnaik’s candidature from an Assembly seat in the region.
Pujari, however, said that Patnaik’s decision to contest from Bijepur will not make much of a difference in the Lok Sabha constituency. “A strong Modi wave is sweeping across the country and voters in Bargarh are highly impressed with the development work and welfare measures undertaken by the BJP-led government at the Centre,” said Pujari.
But the BJP is also worried as its firebrand leader and Bargarh strongman Subash Chouhan has quit the party and joined the BJD after being denied nomination. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Chouhan had lost the Bargarh seat to BJD’s Prabhas Singh by a slender margin of 11,178 votes.
It should also be stated here that both Acharya and Pujari did not emerge among winners in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. Acharya had contested the 2014 election from the Bijepur Assembly constituency on a BJD ticket, but lost to Congress nominee Subal Sahu by a very narrow margin of 458 votes.
Pujari had contested as a BJP candidate from Sambalpur Lok Sabha constituency, but was defeated by BJD’s Nagendra Pradhan by a margin of 30,576 votes.