Odisha CM to contest Kantabanji Assembly seat apart from Hinjli

Bhubaneswar, April 17 (FN Representative) Biju Janata Dal supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced on Wednesday his intention to contest from the Kantabanji Assembly seat in Odisha, in addition to his traditional Hinjili assembly seat, in the upcoming Assembly election in the state. Patnaik announced the names of party candidates in 11 Assembly seats while replacing candidates in two assembly seats that were announced earlier. With the fresh list, the ruling BJD has so far announced the candidates in 126 Assembly seats in five phases and is yet to name candidates for the remaining 21 Assembly seats. In the 2019 Assembly elections, Patnaik had contested from both Hinjli and Bijepur Assembly seats and won both.

He retained the Hinjli seat, his home constituency, and resigned from the Bijepur Assembly seat. Political pundits suggest that the Chief Minister’s decision to contest one assembly seat from Western Odisha, besides his home assembly seat, is to counter the Opposition BJP, which has a strong base in Western Odisha. The Kantabanji Assembly seat is presently held by Santosh Singh Saluja, a Congress candidate who defeated the ruling BJD candidate in the 2019 Assembly elections. The BJD supremo has replaced the party candidate in Rairkhol and Sambalpur Assembly seats. Earlier, the party had re-nominated sitting MLA Rohit Pujari from Rairkhol Assembly seat and named veteran party leader, former minister, and former MP Prasanna Acharya for the Sambalpur Assembly seat. Party sources indicate that Prasanna Acharya was not satisfied with the Sambalpur Assembly seat and expressed his desire to contest the Rairakhol Assembly seat, from where he was elected to the state Assembly in 2009.

Sitting BJD MLA Rohit Pujari, who has been elected from Rairakhol Assembly seat twice during the 2014 and 2019 Assembly elections, has been fielded from the Sambalpur assembly seat, which is presently held by Jaya Narayan Mishra of BJP. In the fresh list announced on Wednesday, the party has dropped four sitting MLAs, including former minister Sameer Ranjan Dash (Nimapara) and former Deputy Speaker Rajanikant Singh (Angul). Besides Dash and Singh, the BJD has dropped Chitrokonda MLA Purna Chandra Baka and Kuchinda MLA Kishore Chandra Naik. In Nimapara, the party has fielded Dillip Nayak, who recently joined the party, and in the Angul Assembly seat, it has fielded Sanjukta Singh, the wife of sitting MLA Rajanikant Singh. The BJD has fielded Arundhati Devi, the wife of BJP sitting MP Nitesh Gang Dev who recently joined the BJD, for the Deogarh assembly seat. The BJP has dropped sitting MP Nitesh Gang Dev and in his place fielded Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan from the Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat. Former Minister Rabi Nanda, who was keen to contest the Jeypore assembly seat, presently held by the Congress, has been denied a ticket. Instead, the party has nominated his wife, Dr. Indira Nanda, to contest the Jeypore Assembly seat.