In Bhubaneswar MP race, winner will have to meet voter expectations on local issues

BHUBANESWAR ELECTIONS: VOTER VOICES

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Voters verifying their names in the electoral rolls at a polling booth. Pic: Basudev Mahapatra

Two retired bureaucrats — IAS and former commissioner of Bhubaneswar Municipality Corporation (BMC) Aparajita Sarangi (BJP) and retired IPS officer and former Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Mohan Patnaik (BJD) — along with Janardan Pati, the CPI (M) candidate supported by Indian National Congress (INC) were among the 13, mostly fresh, faces in the MP elections in Bhubaneswar. The city voted on April 23rd to elect both MLAs for the Odisha Vidhan Sabha and MPs to the 17th Lok Sabha.

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However, the primary legislative role of an MP notwithstanding, many voters in the Odisha capital, are still looking at their elected parliamentarian to take charge of local issues and solve their most pressing day to day issues.

Take for example Mamatamayee Mohapatra (40), who expects the elected leader to solve the problem of drainage that she and her neighbours have been facing since years. “The drains overflow most of the days and drain water enters our home, including our kitchens,” Mohapatra complains as she sat at the voters’ lobby after casting her vote.

Mamatamayee Mohapatra wants a solution to the drainage issue in her neighbourhood. Pic: Basudev Mahapatra

“Uninterrupted water supply is also a major issue that the elected leader must take up. We need dynamic governance, which is sorely lacking as far as Bhubaneswar city is concerned,” says Kalpataru Behura, a retired forest department official in his seventies who has been living in the city for a long time.

Kalpataru Behura wants his leader to ensure uninterrupted water supply. Pic: Basudev Mahapatra

Bhubaneswar slum dwellers, who make up more than 30 percent of the city’s population, voice countless issues to be taken up by the elected leader. As a first, they want land rights in their existing settlements or alternative land with titles, where they can build their homes. “We also expect the elected leader to be sympathetic to the fight for our other rights, including ration cards for all, water supply etc,” says Bijay Maharana of Bhubaneswar’s largest slum Salia Sahi.

Elites of the city look forward to seeing a more energized administration with improved law and order situation. Bhubaneswar witnessed two incidents of violence recently where bombs were thrown at the vehicles of two candidates for the assembly elections – one from the ruling BJD and another from BJP. According to the city police, cases of rape in the city have increased by 26.6 percent while other nefarious activities such as murder, dacoity, robbery and road accidents have risen by 7.5%, 25%, 5.8% and 8.9% on average respectively.

“Traffic management is in disarray. Drainage and sewage management are neglected. Water supply needs a lot of improvement. The city climate needs urgent action,” remarks voter Ranjit Parija, who works at a city-based college. “The leader must have a development vision for the constituency.”

Overall, Bhubaneswar citizens have voted in the hope of getting an energetic voice in the Lok Sabha, who will also be sympathetic to the myriad problems plaguing life in the city.

MP candidates from Bhubaneswar

Candidate Party Education Age Total Assets
Aparajita Sarangi

(Former IAS)

BJP Graduate 49 Rs 3,16,77,600
Arup Mohan Patnaik

(Retd IPS)

BJD Graduate Professional 63 Rs 9,27,00,106
Bhakta Sekhar Ray Kalinga Sena 10th Pass 39 Rs 44,06,894
Biswanath Ramachandra Freethought Party of India Post Graduate 75 Rs 76,35,586
Biswanath Rout Krupaa Party Post Graduate 61 Rs 42,50,149
Janardan Pati CPI(M) Graduate Professional 71 Rs 2,36,86,053
Jayant Kumar Das IND Others 43 Rs 55,58,206
Lalita Kumar Nayak BSP Graduate Professional 50 Rs 16,95,002
Madhu Sudan Yadav IND Graduate 69 Rs 29,27,324
Pramila Behera CPI(ML) Red Star Graduate 42 Rs 47,252
Sanjaya Kumar Sahoo IND Graduate 34 Rs 21,08,850
Subhranshu Sekhar Padhi AITC Others 43 Rs 2,03,88,994
Susil Kumar Jena IND Post Graduate 53 Rs 30,09,216

(Source: MyNeta.info)

Candidate perspectives

“The city has many issues, but housing, water and electricity are the issues most important for us,” said G Simanchal Rao, 47, of Salia Sahi.

BJD candidate Arup Mohan Patnaik hopes to win the election by virtue of the development claims, popularity and brand value of BJD president as well as the chief minister of Odisha for a record 19 years, Naveen Patnaik. However, none of these issues concerning city dwellers featured during Arup Patnaik’s campaign.

“He couldn’t reach the communities and people directly as a leader should. Maybe, he is still expecting to win because of the organisational base the party has, and popularity the party candidates have in the assembly seats within the parliamentary constituency,” said Sandeep Sahu, city based senior journalist and a renowned columnist.

BJP candidate Aparajita Sarangi, on the other hand, has highlighted failed governance, poverty, unemployment as primary issues in her campaign trail; she has also promised to make her constituency the best. She probably has deliberately avoided the issue of garbage free clean Bhubaneswar despite the fact that she started the programme for beautification of the city during her tenure as commissioner of BMC. The intentional avoidance could be presumed to be due to a decision during her time to dump the city’s garbage near a village in the outskirts of the city — a decision that led to controversy and public agitation. The same villagers are now part of the electorate, after all.

Issues close to citizens, such as land titles to slum dwellers, drinking water supply, proper footpath for pedestrians have been highlighted by Janardan Pati, the CPM candidate, as primary electoral issues.

Misplaced expectations among voters?

But really, why do Bhubaneswar citizens want these issues — which should ideally be dealt with by the local administration and the civic body — to be solved by the MP?

Garbage management is in disarray in Bhubaneswar. Pic: Basudev Mahapatra

“When such basic issues are yet to be fulfilled, what bigger dreams can voters have for their MP to resolve?” says one resident. Indeed, several others voice similar reasons. These civic issues have become key electoral issues for the people because they have remained unsolved for years together and no political leadership or party at the local level has been able to address the gap in basic amenities.

“If Baijayant Panda, the BJP MP candidate from Kendrapara (formerly with the BJD) could solve the drinking water issue in so many villages utilising his MPLAD, as he says here, why can’t our MP do the same for us?” asked another group of voters.

“Such expectations of the voters from their MP mirror the tricky game more often played by political leadership and governments to keep people engaged in smaller personal issues, so that they won’t have the time and scope to think beyond these on larger development and welfare policies,” observes columnist Sahu.


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About Basudev Mahapatra 7 Articles
Basudev Mahapatra is a senior journalist based in Bhubaneswar.