Barbil/Champua/Joda: The BJP and the BJD are far ahead of the Congress in their campaign in Champua Assembly constituency with influential Independent leader Sanatan Mahakud not in the race.
Elections to the Parliament and Assembly seats of Keonjhar district will be held in the third phase April 23.
The BJP is quite hopeful of riding the crest of the ‘Modi wave’. Before 2009, the seat was a Congress stronghold. After the seat was declared reserved, the Congress started losing to Independents.
The BJD has won the LS seat in Keonjhar, but failed to win the Assembly seat.
The seat has remained backward in areas like education and healthcare as all the schemes of the state government are out of reach of the people, voters said. Many development projects in the area have been abandoned.
The people say that the only ray of hope is Mineral Development Foundation (MDF) funds.
Political analysts say the BJD has been ruling the state for the last 19 years, but has not gained much of a foothold in Champua due to influential Independent MLA Sanatan Mahakud.
In 2014, the BJD had fielded Odia film actor Tatwa Prakash Satpathy, popularly known as Papu Pom Pom, in the constituency. Satpathy finished third. Independent candidate Sanatan Mahakud won the polls by 69,635 votes while Kusha Apat, also an Independent, came second.
Although the BJD has inducted Kusha Apat into the party this time, he was not given the ticket. He was engaged in organisational activities here.
This time, the BJD as part of its strategy to counter the BJP and the Congress, gave its ticket to Minakshee Mohant, a leader backed by Mahakud. Political circles say the BJD has fielded its candidate on contract.
Minakshee belongs to the Kudumi community. By fielding her, the BJD is aiming to grab Kudumi votes. But in the past, there were instances of other parties failing electorally despite fielding Kudumi candidates. How far this election will favour Minakshee remains to be seen.
The Congress has fielded Jadumani Barik, a resident of Bhadrasahi. But his campaign has lost steam compared to the BJP and the BJD.
BJP candidate Murali Manohar Sharma has been carrying out an intense campaign with the help of the party’s national leaders and star campaigners banking on the ‘Modi wave’.
There are reports that a section of the BJD which is unhappy with ticket distribution is tacitly supporting Sharma. The possibility of attracting voters using money can’t be ruled out.
Meanwhile, Kusha Apat and Sanatan Mahakud are campaigning for BJD MLA nominee Minakshee and LS nominee Chandrani Murmu at Champua. Apat has reportedly managed to get disgruntled party workers on board.
Both the leaders were seen together at a party rally appealing to the people to vote for Minakshee so that Naveen Patnaik can become Chief Minister again.
Apat announced at the meeting that he and his supporters have been with the party for the last 15 years.
Jadumani Barik and his supporters campaigned at Joda and visited slums of the Muslim community. He was seen trying to woo voters with promises of NYAY and loan waivers.
District executive president of the Congress, Nihar Ranjan Rout, announced during a rally that many disgruntled leaders of the BJD had joined the Congress.