Netas Face Exam

With the end of the last session of the 15th Odisha Legislative Assembly, the countdown has begun for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections. The lawmakers, though aware of the ensuing polls, suddenly realize that the examination time is very close and people will now evaluate them and their party.

A sense of insecurity is writ large in the faces of BJD members as the party will be seeking vote for the fifth time in a row and anti-incumbency is an added burden for them.

Many of the BJD lawmakers have been elected from the same constituency for more than two times which create a natural resentment against them. They have an additional uncertainty as they are not sure of getting party tickets.

As the party has stayed in power for four consecutive terms, parallel leadership has grown in each Assembly constituency. There are at least three aspirants for each seat and the present lawmaker is not sure whether the party will re-nominate him or her.

The Governing BJD headed by Naveen Patnaik may adopt the old strategy of changing candidates to overcome the anti-incumbency factor. The party now has 118 MLAs in the House of 147 and the BJD leadership is likely to change candidates in about 40 per cent of seats, which amounts to about 45 places. Therefore, 45 sitting MLAs may not get party ticket, and interestingly, they are not sure who among them will be deprived this time.

“It is examination time for all of us”, pointed out a two-time BJD MLA from a coastal district even though his position seems secured. He had won the last elections in 2014 with a margin of about 80,000 votes and is still unsure of his ticket.

“Nobody knows what is there is store. If one claims that he will certainly win the 2019 polls, she/he is going to lose,” the young MLA said, adding that only one candidate from Hinjli Assembly seat is certain to win the next time. Of course, he means Naveen Patnaik. There is uncertainty in the remaining 146 seats, the young MLA said.

A veteran lawmaker from Cuttack district, also expressed his feeling of uncertainty. Nobody knows which factors will work against me or favour me. It is all luck and one has to remain connected with the people for the remaining 70 days in the run up to polls. The former minister has already started visiting the people in his constituency with hope that the party will nominate him again. “The party should make the candidates’ list clear soon and people should not remain in dark as days are numbered,” he said.

Nobody actually knows what the fate has in store for them. It is natural that a human being cannot please all voters and public anger is mostly reflected in the vote. It is also a fact that BJD is ahead of other candidates, but future remains uncertain.

While BJD has been increasing its seats strength in the Assembly with every passing election, both Congress and BJP are losing their strength. Now the Congress MLAs’ number has come down to 13 even as 16 of them were elected in 2014. The BJP number remained 10 in 2014 polls, just four more than the 2009 polls.

However, this time in Odisha the election will be altogether different from the previous polls. This is because, the ruling party carries the baggage of anti-incumbency and opposition Congress has revived while BJP, armed with the power at the centre, is calling the shots.

None from the opposition parties match to the popularity of Naveen Patnaik. However, election results are not always similar to the leader’s acceptability. When Raman Singh was very popular in Chhattisgarh, his party lost polls last year.
Like Naveen Patnaik, Raman Singh too had announced a host of welfare schemes for different sections of the society and his party lost the polls.

From candidates’ selection to the party’s policies and opposition strength -- all these will impact the election results.In Odisha, however, BJD leaders have a big relief as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been sharing the anti-incumbency burden.

As people are too unhappy with the BJP government at the centre due to factors like price rise of fuel, cooking gas, demonetization, GST and above all MSP on paddy, the BJD leaders hope that the public anger would be diverted towards BJP.

When people make comparison, they feel that Naveen is better than Narendra, pointed out a senior BJD leader, adding that the saffron party has failed to maintain its 2017 rural poll tempo.

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi has taken over the Congress and appointed Niranjan Patnaik as the OPCC President. Rahul is now much matured in comparison to 2014 polls and ready to take on Narendra Modi. This apart, Priyanka Gandhi has joined Rahul to boost Congress’s poll prospect.

The Rahul-Priyanka duo will have an impact on Odisha elections. It is a fact that Congress may capture some of the non-BJD votes which will ultimately affect BJP’s prospects.

Rahul Gandhi’s call for farm loan waiver and paddy purchase at Rs 2600 per quintal will also have its impact on the farmers while BJD has been trying to woo the farmers through its KALIA scheme.

According to lawmakers from Western Odisha districts, farmers in the region are eyeing instant benefit, while Rahul Gandhi’s farm loan waiver and enhanced paddy purchase rate attract the farming community.

There are about 40 Assembly seats in western Odisha, which will this time decide the fate of parties. Ruling BJD, Opposition Congress and BJP have now focused on the region.

After remaining in power for about two decades, BJD has few issues like central negligence, low rate of MSP, Mahanadi water dispute and Polavaram project. Though BJD is raising the ills of NDA government, it is a little soft on Congress.
Acceptance of the oldest party of the country has been growing among farmers. In Odisha, it will be farmers, who will decide the fate of the candidates.

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