Chief minister and president of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Naveen Patnaik on Sunday indicated that he may contest the coming assembly elections from a new constituency in western Odisha. Assembly polls are going to be held in the state along with Lok Sabha elections in four phases in April. Patnaik is currently representing Hinjli assembly constituency in southern Odisha, Ganjam district.
“Political leaders, farmers, women and students from western Odisha have requested me to contest the coming election from their region and I am considering the request very seriously”, the four-time chief minister said while talking to newsmen at Naveen Niwas, his residence in the city here which had turned into the main centre of activities for the BJD on the election eve.
Patnaik’s statement has already triggered intense speculations in the political circles as to what prompted him to consider fighting assembly polls from western Odisha. A section of the observers are of the view that the move could be aimed at puncturing the opposition BJP and Congress’ attempt to strengthen their position in the region.
Western Odisha had always been a stronghold of the BJP and the Congress. However, during the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly elections the BJD had virtually swept the polls in the region capturing majority the Lok Sabha and assembly seats.
For the last few months, both BJP and Congress have launched serious efforts to regain their forte. A number of national leaders from both the parties have already visited the region more than once to hold public rallies and meetings with party rank and file. These leaders included Prime Minister Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
A section of the party leaders in the BJD, nevertheless, do not rule out the possibility of Patnaik contesting the assembly polls from two seats. “He may contest from two seats – Hinjli and another from western Odisha. He can vacate one of the two seats after the polls. He is sure to win both the seats”, said a senior BJD functionary.
Patnaik had been representing Hinjli since 2000 when he became the chief minister for the first time. During the 2014 elections, he virtually had a cakewalk in the southern assembly constituency capturing 89,267 votes. His nearest Congress rival, Sibaram Patra had managed to get only 12,681 votes while the third spot had gone to BJP’s Debananda Mohapatra with 12,283 votes.