Four-time MP and BJP vice-president Baijayant Panda will take on popular Odisha film star and Rajya Sabha MP Anubhav Mohanty in Kendrapara on Monday. This is the fourth and final phase of elections in the state, which has 21 Lok Sabha seats.
The battle for Kendrapara is eagerly watched as it is being seen as a proxy contest between CM and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik and his former aide Panda. 55-year-old Panda had won the Kendrapara seat with almost 53% of the vote share in the 2014 general election, when the BJD had won 20 of 21 seats (the BJP won just 1). Analysts say the BJP is in a stronger position this time.
Hindustan Times reported that the fight between Panda and Patnaik is so intense that the chief minister held more than a dozen big public meetings in the constituency just in the last week, targeting Panda in most of them. Apart from the bitter parting with Panda, Kendrapara is also the seat from where Patnaik’s father Biju Patnaik had contested, winning even in 1984 after Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
The popular Panda is also battling to break the jinx that has allegedly blighted the political careers of anyone who has fallen out with Patnaik. While Panda only resigned from the party last year, he had been sacked as spokesperson in 2017.