Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Odisha Voters Clear in Their Split Decision – Modi for PM, Naveen Patnaik for CM

Odisha voters gave a big thumbs up to the BJP in the Lok Sabha but refused to favour it in the assembly where their clear preference was the BJD Odisha Voters Clear in Their Split Decision – Modi for PM, Naveen Patnaik for CM
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Credit: PTI

Bhubaneswar: In a quantum leap, the BJP’s Lok Sabha tally in Odisha has gone up from one in 2014 to eight in 2019.

The party not only made major gains in western Odisha, its traditional stronghold – winning as many as five seats (Sundergarh, Bolangir, Bargarh, Sambalpur and Kalahandi) – it also made inroads in the coastal belt for the first time, wresting the Bhubaneswar and Balasore seats from Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal. It also registered an emphatic victory in Mayurbhanj.

However, the enthusiasm shown by voters for the party in the Lok Sabha was not reflected in the assembly elections which were held simultaneously in the state. Though the number of BJP’s assembly seats went up to 23 from 10 last time, the results were far from satisfying for the party which had boasted about forming the government in the state during the long-drawn election campaign which saw its top leaders ridiculing and taunting BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik and even comparing his government to a burnt transformer.

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BJP president Amit Shah, who campaigned extensively in the state, had set his party the target of winning more than 120 assembly seats in Odisha. In that perspective, the assembly outcome has been an embarrassment for the party.

But what has puzzled observers is the behaviour of voters, who gave the party a big thumbs up in the Lok Sabha but refused to favour it in the assembly where their clear preference was the BJD – which swept the polls with 112 seats, paving the way for Patnaik’s swearing-in as the chief minister of the state for a fifth time in a row.

The Fat Decimator System

This brings the 72-year-old leader close to equalling the record of former Sikkim chief minister, Pawan Chamling and West Bengal legend Jyoti Basu, who were in the saddle for the longest periods.

It was an exceptional case of split voting. The results of Bhubaneswar and Bargarh Lok Sabha constituencies and the assembly constituencies falling in those areas are the best possible illustrations of this kind of voting. While the prestigious Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat was won by former IAS officer Aparjita Sarangi on the lotus symbol and the Bargarh seat went to BJP national secretary, Suresh Pujari, BJP candidates failed to win even in a single assembly segment in these parliamentary constituencies.

While Aparajita polled 4,86, 991 votes to defeat BJD candidate and former Mumbai police commissioner, Arup Patnaik by a margin of over 23000 votes BJP’s assembly candidates in the seven segments of the Lok Sabha constituency together got 2.90 lakh votes.

Pujari, who trounced his BJD rival and Rajya Sabha member, Prasanna Acharya by a margin of 63,939 votes, overcame formidable odds. Apart from the fact that Acharya happened to be one of the most seasoned campaigners of BJD, the presence of Naveen Patnaik in the fray from the Bijepur assembly segment of the constituency made things more difficult for Pujari.

BJD heavyweights, including ministers Snehangini Chhuria, Sushant Singh, former minister Bijay Ranjan Singhy Bariha and former speaker Kishore Mohanty were also contesting from different assembly segments of this Lok Sabha constituency, where, on the face of it, Pujari’s chances appeared bleak.

But the result surprised everyone. The BJP stalwart won a resounding victory though none of his party’s assembly candidates in the region made it to the assembly.

In Bolangir and Kalahandi, where, too, BJP Lok Sabha candidates won with ease, things were only slightly better for its assembly candidates. The party won one assembly seat in each of them. While in Balasore Lok Sabha constituency BJP’s  assembly candidates won at two places they got three seats each in Sundergarh and Sambalpur. From the assembly point of view party’s best performance was in Mayurbhanj where it won five seats and also triumphed in the Lok Sabha constituency.

Well known political analyst, Prof. Surya Mishra, explains what happened in Bargarh and Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituencies as intelligent voting. “They were very clear about who to vote for in the Lok Sabha and who in the assembly. Since they wanted to see Narendra Modi as the prime minister of the country, they voted for BJP’s Lok Sabha candidates. But as they did not have faith in the state BJP leaders and their ability to govern, their obvious choice in the state was Naveen Patnaik’s party. Congress was not an option for them, given its sharp decline in the state,” said Mishra.

Pujari agrees that people in his constituency resorted to strategic voting and made an intelligent choice. “This is a sign of maturity of Indian democracy. We should stop underestimating the voters. In this case, they were very clear about their choice and voted accordingly. They did not waste their votes on the Congress as they realised that it was a polarised contest between BJP and BJD,” said Pujari.

Yet another case of split voting was seen in Koraput Lok Sabha constituency where Congress debutant, Saptagiri Ulaka, son of former minister, Ramchandra Ulaka, defeated BJD’s Kaushalya Hikaka, wife of former MP, Jhina Hikaka by a narrow margin of 3,613 votes. Here again, people opted for this young leader as their MP though they did not show preference for Congress candidates on the assembly seats falling in the region.

Of the seven assembly seats under the Kotaput Lok Sabha constituency the Congress won only in Jeypore with veteran, Tara Prasad Vahinipati keeping the party’s flag flying. “People these days are not swayed by propaganda. They also assess candidates and vote accordingly,” said Prof. Mishra.

On the other hand, BJD general secretary Bijay Nayak asserted that despite the so-called Modi wave, his party had won a majority of Lok Sabha seats and also swept the assembly polls. “This demonstrates that people are with our party and our leader, chief minister Naveen Patnaik, is the overwhelming  choice of the electorate,” Nayak said.-The Wire

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