Odisha Polls : Conspiracy Theory Finds Resonance In Patkura As Bijoy Mohapatra Fights Battle For Political Survival

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Manoj Kar- Kendrapara: As the Election Commission of India accorded green signal on Wednesday by issuing notification for election, to the Patkura Assembly seat under the Kendrapara parliamentary constituency, on May 19, all eyes are on politically –sensitive Patkura assembly seat where veteran politician and four-time MLA Bijoy Mohapatra is virtually fighting the battle for survival in State politics.

The poll had been adjourned following the death of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) nominee Bed Prakash Agarwalla (83) on April 20. The veteran leader had represented Patkura constituency twice — 2009 and 2014 and was also a four-time MLA from Kendrapara Assembly seat.

While the ruling BJD is in frantic lookout to fill the void created by Agarwalla’s demise in re-nominating a candidate to lock horn with stalwart Mahapatra, the electioneering that had virtually come to a grinding halt in the assembly segments scattered across 56 gram panchayats in Derabish, Garadpur and Marshghai blocks has gained momentum yet again.

The Election Commission of India today issued notification in this regard under Section-15, Representation of People Act, 1951. In the wake of Agarwalla’s death, the poll had been adjourned under section-52 of RPA.  As per the gazette notification issued by ECI, the elections will be held in the assembly seat on May 19. The ECI has set May 1 as the last date for making nomination papers while May 4 is the last day for withdrawal of nomination papers. Meanwhile, nine contestants from the seat including BJP’s Bijoy Mohapatra, Congress leader Jayanta Kumar Mohanty had earlier filed nomination papers. The BJD has to re-nominate its candidate for the seat.

Mohapatra, who wielded considerable power in Biju Patnaik cabinet (1990-95), has been in political wilderness for nearly two decades now. Intense debate is currently set in motion whether the seasoned politician will be able make to the assembly now under the complex and intriguing political scenario in Patkura. It was in 1995 that Mahapatra had tasted poll victory and that was his last success in the battle of ballots.

The nomination of ailing Agarwalla to contest polls, his tragic death and consequent adjourning of polls has all led to ‘diabolical’ strategy hatched by the regional party to checkmate Mohapatra’s bid to make way to the assembly. The distribution of party ticket to an octogenarian, who was virtually bed-ridden and fighting for life in Intensive Care Unit, all portrayed intriguing melodrama that Odisha politics witnessed once when ironically Mohapatra despite filing nomination papers was denied BJD ticket in 2000.

“Injustice has been done to Agarwalla by his party. As far as I know, he was virtually forced to fight polls despite his unwillingness. My friends, well-wishers and supporters have told me that it was a well-knit conspiracy that was hatched against me. Patkura people are matured and conscious voters. They will give a fitting reply on May 19 polls”, Mohaptra, who has returned to his home turf as the BJP candidate after two unsuccessful attempts at entering the Assembly from neighbouring Mahakalpada, said.

Indications are apparently emerging that BJD will bank on sympathy syndrome and will allot ticket to political nonentity Sanjay Agarwalla, the lone son of late Bedu Babu, as he was popularly addressed by people of Patkura and Kendrapara assembly constituencies.

If Mohaptra’s supporters are to be believed, conspiracy theory to deny their leader entry to Odisha assembly has gained considerable ground following Agarwalla’s death on April 20.

“A sympathy wave is blowing in favour Bijoy Babu and no force can impede lotus from blooming in Patkura this time”, said Zilla Parishad member and a BJP leader Ganesh Chandra Samal.

Mohapatra, who is on losing sequence since 2004 assembly polls, had incidentally lost to BJD’s rival politician Agarwalla in 2009 elections by 27,000 votes,

As people in Patkura assembly constituency battle against the searing summer heat, the old war horse-Mohapatra- is perhaps fighting the all-important poll battle of his four-decade-long topsy-turvy political career..

The Patkura seat comprises 26 gram panchayats (GPs) from Derabish block, 18 GPs from Garadpur block besides seven GPs from Marshaghai block.

Mohapatra was one of the founders of the BJD but was unceremoniously ousted from the party by Naveen just before the 2000 assembly polls. Since then, he has not been able to make it to the State assembly.

In the 2000 elections, he failed to contest as the BJD supremo withdrew his ticket at the eleventh hour replacing him with Atanu Sabyasachi. But Mahapatra backed an Independent and ensured his victory.

Mohapatra on the erstwhile Janata Dal ticket had emerged victorious from this seat in 1980, 1985, 1990 and 1995 assembly polls.