Speculations are rife that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fight 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Odisha's Puri instead of his current constituency Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi. According to a BJP legislator Pradip Purohit, there is 90 per cent possibility of the PM contesting from Puri seat.
He added, "The prime minister loves the people of Odisha and has an attachment with Puri. Therefore, he may prefer this seat for the next elections."
Purohit's claim comes notwithstanding the Prime Minister on Tuesday saying that the issue was media creation.
In the 2014 elections, Biju Janata Dal's Pinaki Mishra won from the Puri seat by bagging 50.33 per cent votes. Of the seven assembly segments under the Puri Lok Sabha constituency, the BJD holds six while the BJP has only one -- Chilika.
Since the prime minister had fought from Varanasi in 2014 with the blessings of Lord Jagannath he might prefer Puri this time, Purohit said, adding that the party's Parliamentary Board would take a final decision on it.
Odisha BJP vice-president Samir Mohanty said, "We will be very happy if the prime minister contests from Odisha. The state BJP has proposed the matter to the central leadership."
Earlier, state BJP president Basant Panda had said that the Odisha unit of the party has proposed to field the prime minister from Puri.
The BJP feels that Modi's candidature from the state will further brighten its chances of performing better in Odisha. Assembly elections in the state are due along with the Lok Sabha polls.
BJP's Puri district president Prabhanjan Mohapatra said: "I think Modi will contest from Puri Lok Sabha seat. This is because the central BJP leadership has been taking stock of the situation of the area on regular basis."
Stating that Modi's possible candidature from the state will have no impact on the people of Odisha, BJD spokesman Sasmit Patra said: "Let the Prime Minister himself and his party make it clear from where Modi will contest."
The ruling BJD headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik continue to hold the Puri Lok Sabha seat for the last 20 years. The party candidates won the seat in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014.
The beach-town of Puri is home to the Lord Jagannath temple, one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism.
The prime minister visited Odisha on December 24. He inaugurated a slew of projects and also laid foundation stones of several projects worth thousand of crores.
He is scheduled to visit Mayurbhanj district on January 5 and on January 16 he will visit Bolangir district.
(With inputs from PTI)