Perhaps realising that it will not be easy to defeat him, both the BJP and Congress have decided to go for political lightweights to take on chief minister Naveen Patnaik who will be contesting the coming assembly elections from two seats – Hinjli in South Odisha and Bijepur in the west. Both the parties had a tough time to select nominees for the two important constituencies.
To begin with BJP, a first timer Pitambar Acharya will fight Patnaik in Hinjli. The lawyer turned politico was keen to contest from Cuttack Lok Sabha seat but the party decided to handover the prestigious Parliament constituency to the former director general of the state police, Prakash Mishra. Acharya was asked to file his papers from Hinjli. However, to appease him, he was made a vice president of the BJP’s state unit just before he filed his nominations.
Similarly, Sanat Kumar Gartia, a mere BJP activist, has been chosen to contest against Patnaik in Bijepur. Interestingly, till last minutes Gartia himself was not aware that he will be the party nominee in the important constituency.
Subash Chouhan, a party heavyweight was the BJP’s first choice for Bijepur. But he was keen to contest from Bargarh Lok Sabha constituency. He had contested the 2014 elections from the western Odisha Parliament seat and lost to BJD nominee by a slender margin.
When his party asked him to file his nominations from Bijepur, an angry Chouhan, a Sangh Parivar activist and former national president of Bajrang Dal not only declined but asked Dharmendra Pradhan, the union petroleum minister who played a key role in the selection of party candidates in Odisha, to contest against Patnaik.
Chouhan has now resigned from the BJP and joined the BJD.
So far as Congress is concerned, the party has selected Ripunath Seth to take on Patnaik in Bijepur. Though a former legislator, he had been ignored by the party for almost two decades now. If Congress sources are to be believed, Seth was chosen as no other appropriate candidate was available for the important seat. The party has also selected a first timer, Sambhunath Panigrahi for Hinjli.
Patnaik had won Hinjli, the only assembly seat he had contested, by a huge margin of more than 76 thousand votes in 2014.