Interesting electoral battle on card in Puri
Spread over a vast coastal belt, Puri, the seat of Lord Jagannath and the famous tourist resort, would witness the Union Steel Minister and Biju Janata Dal leader B K Tripathy trying his luck for the fourth time with congress nominee Pinaki Mishra determined to put up a tough challenge to him.
With nearly 13 lakh voters, this Lok Sabha constituency would virtually witness a straight contest between BJD and Congress candidates although a CPI(ML) Liberation nominee was also in the fray.
Apart from being the famous tourist spot, this temple town constituency always remained in the political focus as no party in Orissa could ignore the influence of Lord Jagannath on the voters across the state.
Be it the BJD-BJP combine or the Congress-led alliance, all began their 'Bijay Abhijan' from here paying obeisance to Lord Jagannath. Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani had also concluded the second leg of his 'Bharat Uday Yatra' here.
During the 60-km drive from Bhabaneswar along the national highway, one could see a flurry of activity by the workers of various political parties to woo the voters.
The mild-mannered Tripathy who had first won the seat in 1991 Lok Sabha poll, was locked in a tough fight with his high-profile Congress rival Pinaki Mishra, who had defeated him in 1996.
Tripathy had equalled the score by trouncing Mishra in the subsequent lok sabha election in 1998.
Back in the poll fray this time after a short gap, Mishra, who did not contest the 1999 poll, was in an upbeat mood about his victory against Tripathy. '' What has he done for the constituency as an union minister ? Puri constituency continued to reel under various problems. There was not much of development'', Mishra said.
''Even the proposed Rs 6000-crore Paradeep Refinery of Indian Oil Corporation has slipped out of Orissa. As a union minister Tripathy failed to save the situation'', he said.
Admitting that Tripathy might face anti-incumbency feeling, poll observers here, however, mentioned about his contact with the people. Tripathy spent considerable time in his constituency and nurtured it well which was likely to pay him dividends in this election, they say.
Refusing to agree to the Congress charge, a BJD leader said that Tripathy, during his stint as a minister, had done a lot for the constituency which has the famous Chilika Lake on the one side and rural segments like Ranpur on the other.
Though Mishra hailed from Chilika, an Assembly segment under Puri, his opponents complained that he (Mishra) spent most of his time in Delhi looking after his profession.
Refusing to attach much importance to it, the Congress candidate said that he was not fighting a zilla parishad or Assembly poll. ''As an MP, I have to work in Delhi for the development of my constituency. Then as a lawyer I also practise in Delhi''.