The focus shifts to Mahakalapada where a three-way contest is heating up

After the first phase of election came to an end in western and southern Odisha, focus has now shifted to coastal districts. While Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik addressed the second public meeting of this coastal district here, top BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra drew massive crowd at Silipur, which was scheduled to be attended by Sushma Swaraj, BJP’s Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, on Thursday. However, Ms. Swaraj could not make it to venue due to ill-health.

An interesting electoral battle is underway in Mahakalapada assembly constituency from where Mr. Mohapatra is contesting. The top BJP leader, who was instrumental in formation of Biju Janata Dal, had to quit the regional party following an intra-party conflict in 2000.

Since then, three assembly elections have passed and Mr. Mohapatra, known as bete-noire of BJD supremo, was not able to win a single poll since 2004. BJD has reportedly implemented all its strategies to ensure that he does not win and enter State Assembly.

In the ensuing election, the BJD has been giving maximum emphasis on Mahakalapada where the BJP leader is pitted against Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, who had defeated him in 2004 assembly election. In fact, Chief Minister held his first public rally of coastal districts from Mahakalapada last week.

“The situation has changed since last election. Mr. Mohapatra has been able to mobilise huge support for him in Mahakalapada. Despite money being pumped by BJD to ensure his defeat, Mr. Mohapatra is marching ahead. He is drawing sympathy from all around this time,” said Prasant Nayak, a supporter, who came to listen to him at Silipur Panchayat ground.

On Thursday, senior BJP leader Biswa Bhushan Harichandan and party’s Odisha in-charge Arun Singh addressed the rally along with Mr. Mohapatra at Silipur.

On the other hand, political observers opine that a sizeable population of Bengali immigrants in Mahakalapada could play a decisive role in victory of any candidate. Since BJP has taken a tough stand against Bangladeshi immigrants, it could become a detrimental factor for Mr. Mohapatra.

The BJD hopes Mr. Nayak, who was Energy Minister in Naveen Patnaik government, would repeat his success. Mr. Nayak has been banking on popularity of the BJD supremo as well as developmental works being undertaken in the area. Mr. Nayak had won the election by around 20,000 votes.

Congress has fielded Bararam Parida from Mahakalapada constituency where he came second by securing 50,838 votes in 2009 election. Although, Mr. Parida is striving to improve his position, entry of the BJP candidate to the fray has changed the equation. Mr. Parida is facing tough challenge from both BJD and BJP candidate. Mr. Mohapatra is hoping to be third time lucky this election.