Sambalpur: BJD's Pranab Das to fight against BJP's Dharmendra Pradhan

Both the contestants are equally important for their parties and therefore a high-profile election is on the card

Pranab Prakash Das with his supporters in Sambalpur on 29 March (photo: @pranabpdas/X)
Pranab Prakash Das with his supporters in Sambalpur on 29 March (photo: @pranabpdas/X)


The Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat in Western Odisha will witness a high-profile contest as the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has put up party general secretary (organisation) Pranab Prakash Das, who is number two in the party after Naveen Patnaik, against Union education minister and BJP's Odisha face Dharmendra Pradhan.

Fifty-two-year-old Das is a three-time MLA from Jajpur seat in the coastal area of the state, while Pradhan, who was a Rajya Sabha MP has returned to the electoral fray after a gap of 15 years after he was nominated from the Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat.

Das who is popularly called Bobby started his election campaign by paying obeisance to Maa Samaleswari, the presiding deity of the western Region of the state on Friday, 29 March.

"I have sought blessings of Maa Samaleswari for the wellbeing of Odisha and also Sambalpur," Das said after offering puja at the temple.

Asked whether he faced an outsider tag in Sambalpur, Das said: "My late father Ashok Das and his sister had 60-year relationship with Sambalpur. My family has a strong link and my father stayed in this town for years. Today, I feel like standing in my one home."

Earlier, Sambalpur BJP MLA and Leader of Opposition Jaynarayan Mishra alleged that Das who hails from Jajpur district in the coastal region of the state is not the son of the soil while BJP candidate Dharmendra Pradhan is a local man.

Replying to reporters on how he sees Pradhan as a rival, Das said: "I have been sent to Sambalpur by chief minister Naveen Patnaik who means development of the area. I have relations with the people of Sambalpur and not with the candidate of the rival party. I am here to serve the people and take developmental works to the next level."

Das is the son of late Ashok Das, a popular Janata Dal leader of the 1990s. Though Ashok Das remained an MLA for many years, he had all along worked for the party and never accepted any ministerial berth when Biju Patnaik government was formed in 1990.

Like his father, Bobby also remained out of the Naveen Patnaik's council of ministry though he served as a minister for a small time. He has a great organizational skill and therefore became close to Patnaik and his close aide V K Pandian.

The Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat is significant this time as Das, who is considered as the number two in the BJD after Naveen Patnaik has been pitted against Dharmendra Pradhan. Both the contestants are equally important for their parties and therefore a high-profile election is on the card, said political analyst Sandeep Mishra.

The Sambalpur seat will go to polls in the sixth phase on 25 May.

The Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat has a unique character as none can claim it as any party's stronghold. In the last three elections in 2009, 2014 and 2019, Sambalpur has voted in favour of three different party candidates in the Lok Sabha elections.

In 2009, Congress candidate Amarnath Pradhan won the Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat by a margin of 14,874 votes while in 2014, BJD's Nagendra Pradhan won it by a margin of 30,576 votes. In 2019, BJP candidate Nitesh Ganga Deb won by a margin of 9,162 votes.

Prior to 2009 when there was an alliance between BJD and the BJP, Prasanna Acharya as a BJD candidate won thrice from Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat in 1998, 1999 and 2004.

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