Will Patnaik win Hinjli for a fifth straight term?

 Four-time Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. PTI file photo

With Four-time Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik increasing his winning margin every passing Assembly polls, the question remains if he will be able to maintain this trend.

“The question should not be if he will win. The question is what will be the (winning) margin. If he scores a victory with less margin of votes compared to 2014, then it will be considered as a defeat for him and a morale victory for the BJP which is expected to capture the second spot this time around”, said Phakir Parida, a roadside tea vendor in Hinjli  also known as Hinjilikatu.

Parida’s statement sums up the mood in the small southern Odisha town in Ganjam district which has been electing Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik continuously since 2000.

In 2000, he had defeated his nearest Congress rival by a margin of 26,417 votes which went up to 42,642 in 2004, 61,273 in 2009 and more than 76,000 in 2014.

In fact, the last election was a one-sided affair with Patnaik garnering as many as 89,269 votes. His two rivals, Congress’ Sibaram Patra and BJP’s Debananda Mohapatra, rubbed their shoulders for the second position. While Patra managed to pocket the second spot capturing 12,681 votes, Mohapatra was not far behind as he received 12, 283 votes.

This time, however, both the Opposition parties, have replaced their candidates with Pitambar Acharya (BJP) and Sambhunath Panigrahi (Congress), both lawyers by profession. They will be making their election debut in a difficult turf.

As far as issues are concerned, both the BJP and the Congress have made unemployment and migration of people to other states like Gujarat in search of jobs a major poll plank.

BJD activists in the area are ready with a counter.

“People from the entire Ganjam district have been migrating and working in states like Gujarat, particularly in Surat, since the past half-a-century now. Migrating to Surat has become a tradition. In fact, the Gujarat city is known here as second Odisha,” said Amrit Das, a long time BJD activist.

Patnaik is yet to launch his campaign in his home constituency.

He will not be addressing any public meeting but is expected to participate in roadshows twice before the April 18 polls.

The BJP is trying to host a public meeting either by Prime Minister Narendra Modi or by party president Amit Shah to garner votes. Similarly, Congress is attempting to get party president Rahul Gandhi to visit the key constituency.

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Will Patnaik win Hinjli for a fifth straight term?

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