Can BJP retain its foothold in Balasore Lok Sabha seat?

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | May 31, 2024 IST

Chinmaya Dehury

Bhubaneswar, May 31: The Balasore Parliamentary constituency in Odisha, heading to polls on June 1, presents a compelling electoral scenario. Known for its unpredictable voting patterns, Balasore has historically demonstrated no permanent allegiance to any particular party or candidate. 

This volatile electoral behavior sets the stage for an intriguing contest among the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), and the Indian National Congress.

This year's election sees a dynamic contest with high stakes, primarily involving the BJP's Pratap Sarangi, Congress veteran and former Union minister Srikant Jena, and Lekhasri Samantsinghar of the BJD.

A triangular contest with uncertain outcomes

The upcoming election in Balasore is shaping up to be a true triangular contest. The BJP's aggressive campaign, the BJD's organizational strength, and Congress's attempt at resurgence create a dynamic and unpredictable electoral environment. 

The incumbent challenge: Pratap Sarangi and the BJP

Pratap Sarangi, the sitting BJP MP and former Union Minister, faces a tough battle to retain his seat. The BJP, buoyed by Sarangi's incumbency and the extensive campaigning by national and state leaders, is pulling out all stops. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan campaigned for Sarangi.

However, Sarangi's tenure has not been without challenges. The visible anti-incumbency sentiment could dampen his prospects.

His success hinges on leveraging Modi's popularity and addressing local grievances effectively. Additionally, Sarangi aims to capitalize on any discontent among BJD supporters regarding Lekhasri Samantsinghar's candidature.

BJD’s strategic play: Lekhasri Samantsinghar

The BJD, with its robust organizational network in Balasore, fields Lekhasri Samantsinghar, a former BJP loyalist. Her candidature brings both strengths and vulnerabilities. The BJD is positioning her as a symbol of women's empowerment, aligning with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's promise to reserve 33% of party tickets for women. Nonetheless, Samantsinghar's switch from BJP to BJD poses a challenge. 

In 2014, BJD leader Rabindra Jena had won from Balasore.

Congress’s comeback bid: Srikant Jena

Congress veteran Srikant Jena re-enters the fray, aiming to revive his party's fortunes in Balasore. Jena had successfully contested from the seat in 2009 and became union minister in Manmohan Singh government.

Jena's political acumen and track record, including the establishment of an AIIMS satellite center, units of the Central Institute of Petrochemicals Engineering & Technology,  and major infrastructure projects, bolster his appeal. His candidacy is likely to attract traditional Congress supporters and could potentially split the anti-BJP vote.

To boost Jena’s prospects, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi campaigned for him in Balasore and neignbouring Bhadrak.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Jena had won the Balasore seat with 35.18% of the votes, but finished third in 2014, when his vote share dipped to 26.44%.

Historical context and electoral dynamics

Balasore's electoral history underscores its unpredictability. Kharabela Swain, a BJP stalwart who won the seat in 1998, 1999, and 2004, now contests as an independent after being denied a BJP ticket. While his presence adds a historical dimension to the race, it is unlikely to significantly impact the primary contenders.

In recent elections, vote shares have fluctuated dramatically. The BJD won with 41.33% in 2014, while the BJPshare  surged to 41.79% in 2019, reflecting internal BJD divisions. The constituency comprises seven assembly segments, with BJP and BJD both having substantial influence. The 2019 elections saw BJP winning three segments, and BJD the other four, with a subsequent by-election victory for BJD in 2020.

  • General Elections 2024

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