Bhubaneswar: This election, the Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency in Odisha is witnessing a tug of war; but it’s not your usual run-of-the-mill political fight. This one is between a former IAS officer and a former IPS officer.
While the BJP has nominated former IAS officer Aparajita Sarangi, Odisha’s ruling party Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has fielded former Mumbai Police commissioner Arup Patnaik, ignoring its veteran five-time MP Prasanna Patasani, for the Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat, which will go to polls on 23 April.
Meet the candidates
Arup is a 1979-batch IPS officer of the Maharashtra cadre who joined BJD in April 2018 after his retirement in 2015. Sarangi, on the other hand, is a 1994-batch IAS officer of the Odisha cadre who took voluntary retirement while serving as a joint secretary in the Narendra Modi government and joined the saffron party last November.
Interestingly, both former officers-turned-politicians are testing the waters of electoral politics for the first time, and such a battle between ex-bureaucrats is a first for Odisha as well.
Besides the reputation that comes with winning the mandate in the country’s leading Smart City, these contestants have made the election battle interesting for political pundits.
It was learnt that the BJP leadership had given a clear brief to Sarangi about her role in Odisha politics, unlike to many local leaders. Hence, she jumped into the electoral fray way before others started chalking out their campaign plans.
Sarangi started her campaigning soon after joining the BJP, as did Arup, even as many within the BJD wondered who will get the party ticket; after all, the regional party’s president, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, is a master at keeping his cards close to his chest, even from his own party members.
Now, the campaigning has reached a fever pitch, and both candidates are going all out to woo voters.
Past experience to serve Sarangi well
Sarangi is unlikely to find it difficult to convey her message to the people and deal with local issues because she has already served as commissioner of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation and district collector of Khurda, under which this Lok Sabha seat falls.
She is known in Bhubaneswar as well as the whole of Odisha for her bold decisions, such as introducing a uniform dress code for teachers, during her tenure as the municipal commissioner and Odisha school and mass education secretary.
“I am my biggest opponent. I am getting a lot of support from people wherever I go, which is a very positive sign. Everyone wants parivartan (change)…,” said Sarangi.
In a Twitter post, she wrote, “People in Begunia (an assembly segment under Bhubaneswar LS seat) are rooting for change in Odisha this time. 19 years of neglect, corruption and goonda raj has resulted in stagnant socio-economic levels, lack of employment opportunities and farmer distress in this region. Begunia is ready for #ParivartanInOdisha (sic).”
Just like her career as an administrator, the BJP leader is trying her best to ‘bloom the lotus’ in her Lok Sabha segment, campaigning from dawn till dusk. If Sarangi wins, she will create history as the BJP hasn’t won this parliamentary seat till date.
Ex-top cop banking on ‘popular’ chief minister
The former Mumbai top cop, hailing from Puri district’s Delanga block, has also been campaigning vociferously. He served in many positions in Maharashtra during his 36-year-long career as a police officer. His role in the infamous Lokhandwala shootout and the handling of the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai won him accolades from several quarters. He was also the investigating officer in the 1993 Bombay serial blasts case.
Arup has exuded confidence that the chief minister’s popularity coupled with people’s faith in BJD will help him sail through.
“As always, my main objective will be public service. During my time as a cop, I did just that; now, I look forward to taking on the huge responsibility of representing the people of this constituency,” he said.
Who are the other contenders?
Other former bureaucrats, including Prakash Mishra (ex-Odisha DGP), Nalini Kanta Pradhan (ex-works secretary of Odisha), and Sarmistha Sethi (ex-Odisha administrative service officer) are also in the fray. Mishra is contesting for Cuttack Lok Sabha seat from the BJP, while BJD's Pradhan and Sethi are contesting for Sambalpur and Jajpur parliamentary segments, respectively.
Congress, another principal party in Odisha, is counting on its pre-poll alliance to take on the BJD and BJP; to that end, it has left the seat for CPM, which has nominated its veteran leader Janardhan Pati.
How has the seat fared so far?
The Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency (number 18) is one of the 21 in Odisha consisting of 16,00,900 voters — 8,64,256 men, 7,36,263 women, and 381 transgender, as per the Election Commission of India 2019 draft electoral roll data.
There are seven Assembly segments under it — Jayadev, Bhubaneswar Central, Bhubaneswar North, Ekamra-Bhubaneswar, Jatni, Begunia, and Khurda. Prior to delimitation (2008), the Assembly segments under it were Bhubaneswar, Jatni, Khurda, Begunia, Nayagarh, Khandapara, and Daspalla.
It was earlier known as the Khurda Lok Sabha segment, and Congress’ Pandit Lingraj Mishra was elected as its first MP in 1952.
The BJD has controlled the seat since 1998, with Patasani (popularly called Baba) getting elected to the Lok Sabha five times in a row — 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009, and 2014. Late CPM leader Sivaji Patnaik was elected from the seat thrice (1977, 1989, and 1991), while Congress candidates managed to bag it in the rest of the elections.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Patasani got 4,39,252 votes (49.25 percent) and BJP’s Prithiviraj Harichandan 2,49,775 (28 percent). Congress’ Bijay Mohanty came third with 1,45,783 votes (16.34 percent).
Of the total voters, only 4,83,992 (57.9 percent) men and 4,07,830 (58.94 percent) women cast their vote in the last general elections.
(Author is Bhubaneswar-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com.)
Updated Date: Apr 04, 2019 20:56:34 IST