It's do or die for former chief minister Gamang in Odisha

Veteran Congress leader and former Odisha chief minister Giridhar Gamang is facing an acid test in tribal dominated Koraput Lok Sabha constituency.
 

Gamang is up against two formidable challengers–the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD)’s Jhina Hikaka and Sibashankar Ulaka of the BJP.

The battle for Koraput is important as Gamang lost the seat in a humiliating fashion in the 2009 polls, that too after winning in the constituency as many as nine times since his maiden entry into Parliament in a by-election way back in 1972.

 He was drubbed by BJD’s Jayaram Pangi–who has been replaced by Hikaka this time–by a handsome margin of more than 96,000 votes.

The 71-year-old tribal leader knows a defeat in the April 10 polls could turn into a waterloo and put a full stop to his more than four decade long successful political career.

Leaving no stone unturned, despite his advanced age, Gamang is undertaking whirlwind tour of the constituency–the third biggest in the country after Leh in Jammu and Kashmir and Bastar in Chhattisgarh.

He is also emphasising on door-to-door campaign and motorcycle procession rather than big election rallies and meetings. “Voters are my God”, the veteran politician said while appealing to the electorates to vote for him again. Gamang, however, is facing obstacles from multiple corners. And one among them is rebellion by his party leaders in the constituency.

Interestingly, the revolt against the septuagenarian leader is being led by none other than his wife Hema Gamang, a former MP from Koraput and also a former MLA from Gunpur, an Assembly segment under Koraput constituency.

Hema who quit the Congress just a few days agoover distribution of tickets has joined the ruling BJD. She was keen to take on her husband from Koraput but the regional outfit has given her ticket to fight from Laxmipur.

Hema’s decision to quit the Congress has become a major public embarrassment for Gamang. One of the important reasons behind Gamang’s 2009 debacle was his decision to promote his family.

A staunch supporter of the Gandhi family–he was a minister in the Cabinet of both late Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi–he had not only ensured a ticket for Hema, but had managed to bag nominations for his son Sisir and personal assistant Nagraj Dora.
This did not go down well either with the voters or with party cadres. As a result, Gamang, Hema, Sisir and Dora lost the elections.

For the upcoming polls, Gamang is also facing trouble from BJP nominee Ulaka, a former Congressman who resigned from the party just a few days before filing nominations and joined the saffron outfit. Ulaka is expected to eat away into Gamang’s votes.

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