Election Battles: High-profile Names In Election Battles To Bring West Odisha In Prime Focus | Bhubaneswar News

Bhubaneswar: The decision by chief minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik to contest from Kantabanji assembly seat, coupled with the nomination of his second-in-command in party, Pranab Prakash Das, from Sambalpur Lok Sabha constituency against BJP’s Dharmendra Pradhan, has significantly altered the political landscape of Odisha, shifting focus to the western part of the state.As a consequence of these high-profile candidacies, the issues and challenges faced by western Odisha are expected to gain more prominence during the election campaign. Analysts believe that the region’s development concerns, which have often been overlooked due to its distance from the capital city and the concentration of industries and institutions in the coastal areas, will now be at the forefront of political discussions and debates.Shukadeb Naik, a retired professor of sociology from Sambalpur University, said, “With Naveen and Dharmendra in fray from the region, the political prism will definitely scan the region’s key issues more microscopically.”Various recent initiatives by the central and state govts, including the establishment of an IIM in Sambalpur, development of the Biju Economic Corridor, implementation of large-scale irrigation projects in Bargarh and Balangir districts, and the construction of airports in Rourkela and Jharsuguda, has contributed to a reduction in regional disparity to some extent. However, the region continues to lag behind the coastal areas in terms of healthcare, education, and industrial development.In the 2019 elections, BJP had a remarkable performance in western Odisha, winning all five Lok Sabha seats. In response, BJD has been working to consolidate its position in the region. By fielding Naveen from Bijepur in 2019, the regional party managed to maintain its dominance, securing 22 out of the 35 assembly seats.Surya Narayan Mishra, a retired professor of political science, commented, “Naveen’s strategy looks similar this time as he plans to contest from Kantabanji as a second seat apart from his usual seat of Hinjili in Ganjam district.” He added that while the BJD chief may not be overly concerned about the Lok Sabha poll outcome, he may be strategising to maximise the number of assembly seats in the region through his presence there.BJD is additionally taking note of the fact that prominent Congress leaders, such as former Union Minister Bhakta Charan Das (Narla) and Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Sarat Pattanayak (Nuapada), are contesting from assembly seats in western Odisha.Analysts also feel Naveen is trying to send a signal about Odisha’s “transformation” by contesting from an assembly seat in Balangir, part of Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput region, which once implied poverty. By nominating Pranab, BJD’s general secretary (organisation), the party intends to put up a strong fight against Dharmendra in Sambalpur.

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