Naveen set for cakewalk at home

Naveen set for cakewalk at home

“The question is not whether he will win or lose. The question is whether he will surpass his previous winning margin”, said Trinath Padhi, a resident of Hinjili, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s Assembly constituency, near Berhampur in southern Ganjam district.

“In my opinion, he may not be able to do it this time, because he had reached the peak last time. However, the victory margin will once again be a handsome one,” added Padhi.
The mood in the constituency, set to vote on April 10, is easily assessed from the statement of the 72-year-old retired teacher. Many voters in the constituency concur that Patnaik’s victory is almost a foregone conclusion.

Significantly, since his electoral debut in 2000, Patnaik has not only been winning the seat easily, but also improving his margin each time.

This time, it was an uphill task for the Congress to select a suitable candidate against him. It finally named Sibaram Patra, a 38-year-old youth leader and low-profile Pradesh Congress Committee secretary, on the last day designated for filing of nomination papers.
To a visitor, Hinjili would not seem like an Assembly constituency of a chief minister. It has no big industry, nor does it house a big healthcare centre or a reputed educational institution. Even the only bus stand in Hinjili town does not have a proper rest room.

Sanitation is a major problem in the entire constituency, consisting of Hinjili town, Hinjili block and the neighbouring block of Sheragarh. The constituency has a large migrant labour populace, which leaves for other states every year in search of work. The development activities are no better than any other semi-urban constituency in the state. But Patnaik still captures the seat by incremental margins.

The reason behind this seems to be the three-time CM’s personal image as an honest politician. “I had seen a report in a local newspaper about his wealth and properties, disclosed while filing nomination papers. He has been chief minister for 14 years but has not added a single asset or property to his name,” said Sanatan Sahu, owner of a roadside eatery in Hinjili.

However, a few others in Hinjili feel it is high time Patnaik concentrate more on his home constituency. “Hinjili should look like a chief minister’s constituency. If there is no more development, people will be fed up after some time and search for an alternative,” said school dropout Akhil Sabat, who works as a hotel assistant in western India and was on a visit to his native place.

Apart from the Congress, the BJP too has fielded a candidate. Several other smaller parties, like newly formed regional outfits, the Ama Odisha Party and the Samata Kranti Dal, and even the AAP have fielded candidates against Patnaik. But they are unlikely to have any major impact on the result. 

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