The Royals ruled tribal-dominated Kalahandi for years. In 1952, Giridhari Bhoi became the first MP from this seat. Later, Pratap Keshari Deo won from Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat in 1957, 1962, 1967, 1971 and 1977. He won the 1957 elections on Ganatantra Party ticket and three subsequent polls on Swatantra Party ticket. Pratap Keshari won the 1977 polls as an Independent.
Congress won Kalahandi first time in 1980 when Rasa Behari Behera emerged victorious. In 1984, Jagnath Patnaik from the Congress won the election. However, Bhakta Charan Das snatched the seat from the Congress, while contesting on Samajwadi Janata Party ticket. Congress leader Subash Chandra Nayak won the 1991 polls, but Bhakta bounced back in 1996.
From 1998 – 2004, Bikram Keshari Deo again established the royals’ rule in Kalahandi, as he won three polls on a BJP ticket, riding high on the BJD-BJP alliance in Odisha. Bhakta always ended up on the losing side in these polls even as he contested as a Congress candidate. However, the end of BJD-BJP alliance helped him win the seat in 2009. Recently, he has been appointed as the AICC Spokesperson.
With a desperate bid to avoid a multi-cornered contest in Kalahandi and win this seat for the first time, BJD has roped in late Bikram Keshari Deo’s son Arka Keshari Deo. Bikram Keshari Deo, who died five months after he suffered a shocking defeat to Bhakta Charan Das, still has a lot of followers in the district. His clout and clean image may help his son take over his legacy.
Naveen Patnaik has definitely played a master stroke by accepting Arka Keshari into his fold. With Subash Nayak finishing third in 2009 polls, the BJD wanted somebody who can give a tough fight to Bhakta by eating into the maximum BJP votes. And, Arka Keshari is the right person to do that.