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|February 20, 1998|
Constituency Profile/ Kenderapara
Jena finds the battle tough and tiring
M I Khan in Kenderapara
Highflying Janata Dal leader and Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Srikant Jena’s last minute decision to seek re-election from Orissa's politically volatile Kenderapara Lok Sabha constituency gives the impression that he is doubtful about his chances. Definitely, Jena's ‘giant killer’ image -- for humbling Chief Minister J B Patnaik and his wife Jayanti Patnaik in the Cuttack Lok Sabha seat in 1991 and 1996 respectively -- is in danger.
The divided Opposition -- namely, the Janata Dal and the Biju Janata Dal -- has given the ruling Congress an edge here, for the first time in 40 years. Besides, the firebrand Jena, who describes himself as an ‘innovator', appears to have fallen foul of the locals.
"We voted for him last time due to Biju babu's (Patnaik's) request. But he not only betrayed his mentor, he totally neglected us during his 18-month ministership in the UF government," said Prakash Mohanty, an angry villager.
BJD candidate Prabhat Samantray, who claims to have inherited the legacy of the legendary Oriya leader, is a major worry for Jena -- for, in Kenderapara, Patnaik's name spells magic.
For the record, Kenderapara is the only seat in the state which has evaded the Congress almost completely. The last time the party won the seat was in 1952. Even when the whole state was swept under the Congress waves of 1980 and 1984, JD nominees emerged at the top in the constituency without much trouble.
This time, however, in Biju Patnaik's absence the Opposition stronghold is witnessing accusation and counter- accusation between Jena and the Janata Dal candidate. In fact, so bad is the bitterness that angry BJD workers even disrupted the procession which Jena took out to the collectorate on his way to file nomination papers.
"Both are so occupied in fighting each other," commented a Congress worker in the Mahanga assembly segment, "that they hardly find time to fight the Congress!"
Thus, the clear-cut split in the Opposition votes is sure to come in handy for Congress candidate Archana Nayak, a dynamic young lady.
The constituency returned Jena in 1996 with a margin of 40,000 votes. This time, Jena, taking note of the change in scenario, planned to shift to another seat. But when he found there was no safe seat available, he decided to take his chance in Kenderapara.
During the last two decades, Jena has won six elections in a row -- three to the state assembly and three to the Lok Sabha. The Dal is now left with only two MLAs in Kenderapara, but Jena is not sure of their support.
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