Popular state actors are not exclusively aligning with the BJD anymore; many are now leaning towards the BJP in Odisha.

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By Gulam Mohammad

Popular state actors are not exclusively aligning with the BJD anymore; many are now leaning towards the BJP in Odisha.

Only the BJD ticket has made actors successful in the state. But now, sitting MPs Anubhav Mohanty and Siddhant Mohapatra, along with former MLA Akash Das Nayak, have joined the BJP.

Popular state actors are not exclusively aligning with the BJD anymore; many are now leaning towards the BJP in Odisha.

Many popular Odia film stars used to prefer the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) when entering politics because it had been ruling the state for twenty years. They often got elected to the state Assembly or Parliament. But as the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Odisha approach, most of them have switched to the BJP. The latest to join the BJP is Anubhav Mohanty, the MP from Kendrapara, who joined on Monday.

Mohanty, who became the youngest Rajya Sabha member in 2014, won the Lok Sabha seat from Kendrapara in 2019. He joined the BJP in New Delhi in the presence of party national general secretary Vinod Tawde, citing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership as his inspiration.

In 2019, Mohanty defeated BJP national vice-president Baijayant (Jay) Panda, who had previously left the BJD, by over 1.53 lakh votes from Kendrapara. While Panda has been renominated by the BJP for the seat, Mohanty is likely to contest his first Assembly election. The BJD has named former MLA Anshuman Mohanty, who recently switched from the Congress, as its candidate from Kendrapara.

Mohanty, who had been facing ongoing marital issues with his actress wife Varsha Priyadarshini, was kept away from political involvement by the BJD for the past four years. In December of last year, the Orissa High Court granted him a divorce, concluding a lengthy and bitter legal dispute.

Another well-known actor-turned-politician, Siddhant Mohapatra, who served as MP from Berhampur twice, recently joined the BJP. Similarly, former Korei MLA Akash Das Nayak, another popular actor, also joined the BJP last Sunday. Both are seeking tickets for the Assembly. Both Siddhant and Akash claimed they were neglected by the BJD, which prompted their move to the BJP.

The movement of film stars from the BJD to the BJP began when popular actor Arindam Roy left the BJD last month. Roy, who is the brother-in-law of BJD organisational secretary Pranab Prakash Das, reportedly left the party because he felt he might not be given a ticket. He also claimed neglect within the regional party as a reason for his departure.

Veteran actor Prashanta Nanda, whose term in the Rajya Sabha is concluding on April 3, hasn’t been very involved in BJD activities. Additionally, his son Rishabh, who joined the BJP before the 2019 elections, has also become less active in politics recently.

Apart from Nanda, who won two Assembly elections from Begunia—once on a BJP ticket in 2000 and then as a NCP nominee in 2009, both times in alliance with BJD—no other actor has succeeded in Odisha Assembly or Lok Sabha elections with a party other than the BJD. Siddhant, Anubhav, and Akash all emerged victorious in their respective elections on BJD tickets.

In 2014, the Congress fielded popular actors Bijaya Mohanty and Aparajita Mohanty from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack Lok Sabha seats, respectively. However, both faced significant defeats. In 2019, Aparajita joined the BJP and contested from Bhubaneswar-North but was once again unsuccessful.

A senior BJP leader mentioned that the induction of popular film stars into the party is strategic because these actors have a large fan following. This move is expected to help the party maintain an advantage in the perception battle leading up to the 2024 elections.

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