In tribal-dominated Sundergarh, the only Lok Sabha constituency in Odisha the ruling Biju Janata Dal(BJD) had failed to conquer during the 2014 landslide, senior BJP leader and Union Tribal Affairs Minister Joel Oram is having a tough time in his attempt for a second consecutive victory, primarily because of some failed promises.
A case in point is the long-standing demand of the people of Sundergarh district for upgradation of the Ispat General Hospital (IGH) being run by Steel Authority of India(SAIL), a central government undertaking, in the steel township of Rourkela.
"Prime minister Narendra Modi had promised to upgrade the IGH, a lifeline for tribals in the entire Sundergarh as well as adjoining districts," said Dukhisyam Majhi, a tribal and resident of Sundergarh town. He added that the promises are yet to be delivered even after five years, so it will become a poll issue this time.
In fact, the IGH issue and other promises have triggered a revolt in Sundergarh unit of the BJP last November with former union minister Dilip Ray resigning from the party as well as membership of the state assembly. In 2014, Ray had won from Rourkela, an assembly segment under Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat. This time he has kept himself away from elections.
BJP supporters and activists, however, insist that the IGH is no more an issue. "Money has already been sanctioned by the central government with the intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to make IGH a super-speciality hospital. Dilip Ray himself had tweeted about this just a few days ago. He had also thanked the PM for his efforts," said a BJP activist.
In 2014, Oram had defeated his nearest BJD rival, former hockey ace Dilip Tirkey by a margin of just over 18,000 votes. This time, the regional outfit has replaced Tirkey with Sunita Biswal, daughter of Congress heavyweight and former chief minister Hemananda Biswal.
George Tirkey, the Congress nominee in the triangular contest has emerged as a more formidable challenger for Oram. A sitting MLA and only Christian candidate in the fray, he is expected to garner a majority of the votes of the minority community who constitute a large chunk of the voters in Sundergarh.