Fierce triangular battle in tribal dominated Koraput

Koraput Lok Sabha constituency (Google Maps)

The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) nominee Koushalya Hikaka is engaged in a fierce triangular contest with BJP’s Jayaram Pangi and Saptagir Ulaka of the Congress in Koraput, the most important tribal dominated Lok Sabha constituency in south Odisha.

While Koushalya is the wife of sitting BJD MP Jhina Hikaka, Pangi is a former MP who had won the seat on a BJD ticket in 2009. He was also a former Koraput district unit president of the regional outfit. He had switched sides to join BJP almost a year and a half back. Congress nominee Ulaka is the son of Ramachandra Ulaka, a former state minister who was considered a political heavyweight in the district.

Many electorates in the constituency are of the view that the performance of sitting MP Jhina who had grabbed the national headline for his 2012 kidnapping by the Maoists(he was a BJD MLA then) was not up to mark. And this has become a major minus point for Koushalya.

“Jhina failed to live up to the people’s expectations. His performance as an MP was certainly not up to the mark”, said Harihar Majhi, a retired school teacher.

However, BJD supporters in the constituency feel that the regional outfit’s vote bank, particularly among women, has still remained intact for certain steps taken by the Patnaik administration and that will ensure victory for the party nominee again. A case in point is sops announced by the state government for women self-help groups(SHGs) just before the announcement of the polls dates.

There are more than 23,000 women SHGs in Koraput district with over two lakh members who have been benefitted by the sops which include interest-free loans up to Rupees three lakh.

The Congress is pinning hopes mainly on its traditional vote bank which had ensured party heavyweight like Giridhar Gamang to win the Koraput seat as many as nine times between 1972 and 2004. The former chief minister, however, has jumped fence and joined the BJP after his 2014 defeat in the hands of Jhina Hikaka. He had also lost the polls in 2009.

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