Modi, Pattnaik prominent; V.K. Pandian absent: Odisha voters

In the sixth phase of the current Lok Sabha election, Odisha is uniquely positioned. Elections for state assembly are going to take place simultaneously. Rohan Dua, Executive Editor of the The New Indian visited Kendrapara to understand local sentiments around elections.

| Updated: 28 May, 2024 1:55 pm IST

Kendrapara: In the sixth phase of the current Lok Sabha election, Odisha is uniquely positioned. Elections for state assembly are going to take place simultaneously. Rohan Dua, Executive Editor of the The New Indian visited Kendrapara to understand local sentiments around elections.

The rain-drenched coastal city, exudes a tranquil ambiance despite its proximity to the bustling Paradeep Port. The gentle pitter-patter of raindrops provides a soothing backdrop to the intense battle of simultaneous elections unfolding in the state.

On one hand, the people of Odisha favour Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP, for the Lok Sabha Elections. On the other hand, they acknowledge the contributions of Odisha’s incumbent Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Naveen Patnaik by supporting his party in the assembly elections. Notably, there was widespread dislike for V.K. Pandian, a former IAS officer of Tamil origin, as a potential successor to Chief Minister Patnaik.

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Rai Latan Sahu, a local shopkeeper, expressed his desire for Narendra Modi to lead at the center while retaining Naveen Patnaik as Odisha’s Chief Minister. However, he firmly stated, “We cannot accept an outsider like V.K. Pandian, the former IAS officer, simply because he is Tamilian.”

Political rallies fill the rain-soaked streets, with voters enthusiastic for the upcoming elections.

Bonnovali, an Odia-speaking resident, conveyed his support for Modi as Prime Minister, managing to frame a Hindi sentence, “Centre mei ayega toh Modi hi (Modi will win the Lok Sabha Election).” Such is the influence of PM Narendra Modi in Odisha, considered as BJD stronghold.

Bishva Ranjan Patnaik, a banker, refrained from criticizing anyone but praised Modi’s vision, saying, “Modiji is a great Prime Minister, his vision for India is what I like about him.”

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Polling is being held in Sambalpur, Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, and Puri parliamentary constituencies alongside 42 assembly segments within their jurisdictions.

Himanshu Shekhar, a fruit business owner, lauded Modi’s efforts in building the Ram Mandir and Naveen Patnaik’s developmental initiatives in Odisha. “We want Modiji as Prime Minister, but at the same time, we want Naveen Patnaik in our Odisha,” he stated.

Sideshwar Raut, an e-rickshaw puller, expressed confidence in Modi’s governance, citing the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan as a successful initiative. “Modiji will certainly win the Lok Sabha elections,” he said, adding, “But BJD will definitely win in Odisha. There’s no alternative to Naveen Patnaik.”

Around 383 candidates are contesting in the 42 Assembly seats in this phase, there are 31 general seats, five Scheduled Tribes seats and six Scheduled Castes seats.

Kailash Chandra Sahu supported Narendra Modi for Prime Minister, affirming that BJP is working hard for the nation.

However, Dilip Sahu, a fellow resident, favoured Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister, rejecting Kailash Chandra Sahu’s claim and alleging that BJP’s work is a “sham” and “only a show.” He criticized the party for doubling inflation during its rule, citing the rise in cylinder prices from Rs. 400–500 to Rs. 1000–1200.

When Dilip favoured Rahul Gandhi, Kailash expressed genuine respect for everyone’s choice, reflecting the democratic sentiments running high during election season.

Interestingly, both of them acknowledged V.K. Pandian’s development work in Odisha, praising his contributions to infrastructure, schools, and colleges, despite being Tamilian.

Of the six LS segments going to polls, BJD won four (Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Cuttack, and Puri), while the BJP had two seats in Sambalpur and Bhubaneswar in 2019. Among the 42 assembly seats, BJD won 34, BJP six, and Congress two. Any change in the numbers this time may significantly alter the state’s political landscape.

In contrast, Deepak Kumar Behra, a construction worker, along with Kalu Charan Reddy and Shri Hari Behria, unanimously rejected V.K. Pandian as an outsider, stating, “Bahar ka Aadmi aake kaise hum par hukm karega ( How can an outsider from Tamil rule over us).” They firmly believed that the Chief Minister should be from BJD, preferably Naveen Patnaik, and not anyone else, definitely not V.K. Pandian.

While expressing their desire for Modi’s return as Prime Minister, citing the construction of the Ram Mandir as a significant achievement, they questioned the necessity of V.K. Pandian’s involvement, saying, “Even when Pandian was not posted in Odisha, the government was working well. It can still run without him.”

Acknowledging the democratic process, when asked about if V.K. Pandian will come to power, they politely stated, “It’s democracy, it’s the choice of the people. We will respect the choice, but not accept Pandian with all our heart.”

The political futures of prominent figures such as Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Sambit Patra, and Aparajita Saranagi of BJP besides BJD’s Pranab Prakash Das and Santrupt Misra will be sealed in the EVMs.

Results will be known on June 4.

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