The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Monday announced its first list of candidates for nine Lok Sabha and 63 Assembly seats which will go to polls in the first and second phase on April 11 and 18 respectively.
As per the list, Chief Minister and party president Naveen Patnaik will be contesting from two Assembly constituencies — his home turf Hinjli in southern Odisha's Ganjam district and Bijepur in western Odisha's Bargarh district. This is for the first time in his political career that the four-time chief minister will be fighting the polls from two Assembly seats simultaneously.
Significantly, the regional outfit has decided to replace its candidates in eight out of the nine Lok Sabha constituencies that will go to the polls in the first two phases. The list includes three women, two sitting Rajya Sabha members and a minister in Patnaik’s state cabinet. The BJD had won eight out of these nine Lok Sabha seats during the 2014 polls.
In tribal-dominated Koraput Lok Sabha seat, sitting MP Jhina Hikaka has been replaced by his wife Kousalya Hikaka while in neighbouring Nowragpur, state Tribal Welfare Minister Ramesh Majhi will be the party's nominee in place of sitting MP Balabhadra Majhi who has already left the BJD to join the BJP.
In Sundergarh in western Odisha — the only Lok Sabha seat the BJD had failed to win during 2014 polls — the party nominee will be Sunita Biswal, daughter of Congress heavyweight and former chief minister Hemananda Biswal. Sunit had recently quit the Congress and joined the BJD.
The party vice-president and sitting Rajya Sabha member, Prasana Acharya, will be the BJD nominee in western Odisha's Bargarh Lok Sabha seat in place of sitting MP Prabhas Kumar Singh. Another sitting Rajya Sabha member and social activist Achyuta Samanta will be the party nominee from Kandhamal in place of sitting MP Pratyusha Singh.
The only sitting Lok Sabha member whose name has figured in the first list is Kalikesh Singhdeo who has been re-nominated to contest from his home turf of Bolangir.
A woman self-help group member, Pramila Bisoi, will be the BJD nominee from the Aska Lok Sabha seat. Pushpendra Singhdeo and Chandra Sekhar Sahu will be the party candidates from Kalahandi and Berhampur Lok Sabha constituencies respectively.