Baijayant “Jay” Panda is known to have a strong network in Delhi’s political circles but it isn’t clear whether he has any traction at the grassroots. Nonetheless, the Bharatiya Janata Party is hoping that the former Biju Janata Dal member will be the man to capture the Odisha party’s bastion of Kendrapara.

In Kendrapara, Panda – who was suspended from the Biju Janata Dal last year – faces actor and Rajya Sabha MP Anubhav Mohanty of the BJD.

Kendrapara is significant for the Biju Janata Dal because Biju Patnaik, the father of Odisha Chief Naveen Patnaik and the man after whom the party was named, was elected to represent it three times.

The Kendrapara election may be a triangular contest if the Congress candidate Dharanidhar Nayak, who had polled 3.92 lakh votes in 2014 elections, has enough support.

Panda was suspended from the Biju Janata Dal on disciplinary grounds in January 2018. The party had claimed that Panda was involved in anti-party activities, an allegation he denied.

Jay Panda was one of the founding members of the Biju Janata Dal in 1997, soon after Biju Patnaik’s death. He is a four-time MP, having served two terms in the Rajya Sabha and two in the Lok Sabha.

While resigning from the Biju Janata Dal in May 2018, Panda had said he was heartbroken that no one from the party turned up to pay their last respects to his father, industrialist Bansidhar Panda.

He joined the BJP in March and was appointed its national vice president and spokesperson.

Panda is a member of the family that owns India’s largest fully integrated ferro alloys company IMFA and Odisha’s biggest news channel OTV.

BJD stronghold

Biju Janata Dal candidate Anubhav Mohanty is counting on his popularity and the constituency’s loyalty to his party to win the seat. In his recent film Biju Babu, he played the role of a man who sees the world through the eyes of party founder Biju Patnaik.

The actor told The Indian Express that the goodwill is the rural areas towards Patnaik gives him an edge in the race. “You can see in the records how many times I have taken up the issues faced by people with the central government,” Mohanty was quoted as saying.

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