Triangular Fight Missing

Electoral contest in Odisha is no longer going to be triangular involving Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is most likely going to be a straight fight between BJD and BJP, barring a few places.

The state’s main opposition party, Congress, as per the 2014 election performance, has almost gone down, as leaders of the grand old party are still fighting themselves. The saffron wave has created impact in the aftermath of Balakot air strike. 
The Congress leadership in the state has created such a situation that its candidates are not being taken seriously; still there are pockets of support for the grand old party.  
Out of power for the last 19 years in the state and five years at the Centre, Congress party is in disarray. Though the AICC has made several changes in the state leadership during the two decades, the condition of the party is sliding day by day. No one would be surprised if the party is reduced to the fate of Left parties in Odisha after elections.
In the four Lok Sabha seats, for which polling is over, the fight is mostly between BJD and BJP. However, OPCC Working President Pradeep Majhi has been able to retain party’s status to some extent in Nabarangpur Lok Sabha.
Mr.Majhi, who lost the 2014 elections by just 20142 votes, is trying hard to come out successful with the impact of Congress victory in neighbouring Chhattisgarh.
Congress fielded V Chandrasekhar Naidu, a businessman based in Delhi, in Berhampur Lok Sabha seat. Mr.Naidu is new to the people of Berhampur and the fate of the party candidate is anybody’s guess. 
Similar is the fate of Congress candidate Saptagiri Ulaka in Koraput.
Though the party fielded veteran leader Bhakta Charan Das as its candidate in Kalahandi, the local equations and internal party squabble went against the official candidate. And making his son a candidate for Bhawanipatna Assembly seat has angered the whole Congress cadre in district.
Therefore, Congress’s performances can be well judged. The situation is more or less similar in 28 Assembly seats where polling took place on April 11. Of the 28 seats, Congress had six MLAs in 2014 elections and it is believed to be hard to retain all these seats.
Congress leadership has also failed to retain its MLAs and leaders. Therefore, it will be difficult for the party to retain its vote bank which the grand old party used to maintain since decades.
When Niranjan Patnaik was appointed OPCC President, there was hope among the Congressmen that the party has a chance. But, as the months passed, Niranjan also failed to bring the derailed party to track and leaders including MLAs migrated to other platforms, causing further damage to the party.
Even Pradesh Mahila Congress President Sumitra Jena quit the party. It has been observed that the Congress candidates returned their tickets and are reluctant to fight the polls. The party which had announced to make its candidates’ list final in August 2018 was seen struggling till last date (April 9, 2019) for deciding on its nominees to contest the elections.
The euphoria that was created following Congress win in three Hindi heartland states in December has meanwhile fizzled out and the party has been going low in Odisha despite Rahul Gandhi’s promises of farm loan waiver along with minimum income guarantee.
As the Congress leaders in Odisha have ensured that they lose their grip over the areas, BJP as an opposition party is the natural beneficiary. With money, media and men in hand and a favourable condition created by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the saffron party has almost replaced the Congress from the number two position in the state. The fall of Congress and emergence of BJP in Odisha, has created danger for the ruling BJD.
Another factor is also coming to the fore that BJP emerged as a credible opposition in Odisha as Congress failed in doing its bit. BJP has not only emerged as the main opposition, it has generated high voltage euphoria to defeat BJD.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who till 2019 was considering Congress as the state’s main opposition, has meanwhile changed his impression. During his several rallies, Naveen is not taking the name of Congress as a rival party, but lambasts the saffron party which means that BJP is now BJD’s main opponent.
Naveen, however, has not openly admitted that his party is facing challenge from the saffron party. He has been maintaining that though BJP has emerged as an alternative elsewhere in the country, it is not a factor in Odisha.
Naveen’s words may be a political language, not based on the ground realities, political observers say.
Now, the situation has completely changed after the Pulwama incident and the subsequent air strike by India. Mr.Modi has already made inroads to the people in remotest pockets of Odisha like Mathili in Malkangiri district.
The voters across the urban pockets at least, are now aware that there is a strong government at the Centre which has been giving befitting reply to Pakistan and terrorist organisations. The people are happy as they consider that a strong government can ensure national security.
That Mr.Modi is getting popular does not exactly mean that Naveen has become unpopular. Mr.Modi is popular over a particular issue (terror & Pakistan factor) while Naveen enjoys people’s acceptance for the good work he has done. Women across the state appreciate his government’s pro-women approach.
There is huge presence of women in Naveen’s road shows. On April 11, women have cast their votes in large numbers. BJD leaders feel that women will help them cross the 2019 polls.
Interestingly, even in backward Kalahandi and Koraput districts, urban voters openly support BJP candidates for Lok Sabha and BJD candidates for Vidhan Sabha. 
There are three more phases left for completion of polling in 17 more Lok Sabha and 119 more Assembly seats in Odisha. Time will tell to what extent BJP has penetrated into Odisha’s political landscape and how Modi Wave has worked in the state.

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