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Lack of drinking water facility, better price for agricultural produce main issue in Koraput LS seat

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Koraput (Odisha), May 10 (PTI) Lack of drinking water facility, better price of agricultural produce of tribal farmers and good healthcare facilities are the main demands of the voters of Koraput Lok Sabha constituency in Odisha which will go to the polls on May 13.

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Koraput which is also called the Kashmir of Odisha for its hills, waterfalls and forests has more women voters than male. Out of total 14.80 lakh voters, 7,73, 885 are women and 7,06,777 are male.

Farmers in Rayagada district, a part of which is under the Koraput Lok Sabha seat, are demanding regulation of cotton farming in the district as the farmers do not get fair price for their produce. They claim that they have to go for distress sale of cotton produce to the traders from Andhra Pradesh as there are no buyers of their cotton.

They are demanding that the state government should come to the rescue of cotton growers who are hit by calamities.

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"While the paddy farmers get compensation over loss of their crop due to calamities, there is no such provision for cotton growers in the state," said Ramesh Pangi, a cotton grower.

The people are demanding piped drinking water facility in all villages as many people suffer from diarrhoea during the rainy season every year due to consumption of contaminated water both in Rayagada and Koraput districts as there is no provision of piped drinking water in the villages, said a villager.

"Though some urban pockets are provided with piped water, most of the villagers depend on nullahs and streams to meet their drinking water requirement," the villager said.

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Another villager said, "We need better healthcare facilities as people suffer from diarrhoea and other diseases during the rainy season." The Koraput seat will witness a three-cornered contest between BJD, Congress and BJP.

Ruling Biju Janata Dal candidate Kausalya Hikaka claimed that the social security schemes of the state government along with Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY) are popular among the poor people of Koraput.

"Our Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's popularity will help me win the seat," Hikaka said.

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Naveen Patnaik has already campaigned for the BJD candidate in Koraput.

Congress has re-nominated sitting MP Saptagiri Ulaka.

Ulaka is optimistic about retaining the state and claims that he has done a lot for the development of Koraput in the last five years. Ulaka is the son of veteran Congress leader and former state minister Ramachandra Ulaka.

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"I am meeting people and telling them about my report card for the last 5 years. I have ensured installation of 1,482 mobile towers, an aluminium refinery at Kansariguda, Jepypore airport, National Highway-326 by-pass road during the last 5 years," Ulaka said.

The Congress candidate claimed that people are happy that they have internet connectivity even as their villages are located amid hills and forests. The people call him 'tower man' for ensuring internet connectivity to people in forest and hilly areas of Koraput.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Saptagiri Ulaka had polled 34.36 per cent of votes in Koraput, followed by BJD candidate Kausalya Hikaka at 34.03 per cent while BJP nominee Jayram Pangi came third with 11.29 per cent votes.

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Former Union minister Giridhar Gamang had won the Koraput LS seat eight times and his wife Hema Gamang for once, is back in Congress after a tour to BJP and BRS.

Ulaka and two other contenders in the Koraput LS seat belong to the Kondh community, which forms around a significant 47 per cent of the population in the area.

BJP has fielded Kaleram Majhi for the Koraput seat.

Majhi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election rally on May 6 at Nabarangpur district, will have an impact on the adjacent Koraput Lok Sabha seat also.

"The tribal people are overwhelmed by the BJP government facilitating the construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya... many have praised Modi...," Majhi said, adding that free-of-cost rice by the central government would also help him to get the support of tribals, dalits and OBCs.

The BJP has never won from the Koraput seat.

"BJP candidate may be good, but the party is yet to expand its base in Koraput," said political analyst Sandeep Mishra.

He said the BJP is also a factor this time in the Koraput Lok Sabha constituency.

The Koraput Lok Sabha constituency comprises seven assembly segments - Gunupur, Bisam Katak and Rayagada in Rayagada district and Laxmipur, Jeypore, Koraput and Pottangi in Koraput district. PTI AAM RG

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