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Biswal eyes a hat-trick

Cuttack, April 3: The Choudwar-Cuttack Assembly constituency, from where BJD’s Pravat Ranjan Biswal is eyeing a hat-trick win, is the perfect example of a changed electoral matrix.

Last time, Biswal had won with a handsome margin by securing 58,495 votes against an Independent candidate, Deepak Kumar Barik, a local youth leader, who could garner only 25,718 votes.

Barik is not in the race this time and Biswal is locked in a three-way contest with BJP’s Nayan Kishore Mohanty and Congress’s Suresh Mohapatra.

Barik says the people who had voted for him will go against the BJD this time as well. “The BJD government had assured to come up with an integrated textile park in Choudwar to compensate the closure of Orissa Textile Mills. The proposed park had prospects of providing employment to around 10,000 people. The government has done nothing,” Barik said.

BJD leaders, however, are upbeat, because the party had captured 13 of the 19 wards of Choudwar Municipality in the 2013 civic polls.

“I am hopeful that the voters would respond in the same way as last time taking into account the clean image of our party leader Naveen Patnaik and the development works undertaken by his government,” says Biswal.

Biswal, a 47-year-old graduate, first contested elections and lost as an Independent candidate from Cuttack Sadar constituency in 2000, only to win 2004.

Nayan Kishore Mohanty, the BJP state general secretary who had secured just 8,988 votes in 2009, said: “There is an undercurrent of anti-incumbency.”

“The sitting BJD MLA has nothing much to say about achievements in the past five years except for laying of foundation stones,” said Mohanty, a 52-year-old law graduate who has been concentrating on a door-to-door campaign and promising to solve the drinking water problem. He is also promising industrialisation to decrease unemployment in the area.

Suresh Mohapatra, a Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee secretary, who had lost from Barabati Cuttack, has been fielded by the party here.

“The focus of my campaign is failure of the BJD government on all fronts — sanitation, road condition and drinking water — in the constituency and apathy for forced unemployment due to closure of industrial units in Choudwar,” said Mohapatra, 57, a law graduate.

Last time, Congress candidate Sabitri Choudhury had secured just 8,498 votes. “The Congress will wrest the seat with an united effort this time,” said Mohapatra, who has also been campaigning door-to-door.

Much of the optimism of both the BJP and Congress is based on BJD’s performance in the recent Cuttack Municipal Corporation elections. The BJD had received a severe jolt in Choudwar with party candidates winning only in 10 of the 22 wards here. “Later, 6 Independents had joined the BJD,” said a BJD leader.