Bhubaneswar: Governing Biju Janata Dal (BJD) winning yet another Assembly by-poll is no more news. The election result also has no significance regarding the numbers in the Assembly. The number of BJD MLAs remained intact with party candidate Alaka Mohanty winning the seat. It was almost a foregone conclusion that Naveen Patnaik’s regional party would win the by-election to Brajrajnagar in Jharsuguda district.
But this particular election has given a “strong” message to state politics. The poll results have put a break on the journey of BJP, which was continuously making inroads into Odisha politics since 2017 panchayat elections. The lotus party easily pushed the hand symbol to the third position in state politics and even emerged as Odisha’s principal opposition party in the Assembly and outside. In the 2019 elections, the BJP bagged eight Lok Sabha seats and 23 Assembly seats while Congress could manage to win in one Lok Sabha and 9 Assembly seats. Congress, which used to remain as the main opposition party till 2019 since Naveen’s first government in 2000, lost its status, certainly a gain for BJP.
The Brajrajnagar by-poll has given a clear message to the saffron policy makers and strategists like Narendra Modi and Amit Shah that the BJP has not been able to make India and also Odisha “Congress Mukt (free)”. The Congress very much exists and a single by-poll has the potential to upset BJP’s journey in Odisha. Brajrajnagar is not a city or a big town, but a small industrial township having workers and farmers as majority of voters. What exactly went wrong for BJP to lose deposit? This is high time for the party to ponder about its poor performance. The same people of Brajrajnagar had voted for BJP candidate Radharani Panda in 2014. The BJP also has a sizable network in the segment as it has been fielding its candidates in successive elections.
When BJP leader Pradip Purohit alleged that the ruling BJD funded the rival Congress, can the saffron party leaders claim that they fought elections without spending money? This is not all. Purohit also suspected that some insider might have sabotaged the elections. Is it possible for a person to sabotage the elections and to ensure a BJP candidate to lose her deposit? There are many questions coming up following the announcement of the results of the Brajrajnagar seat. This apart, Radharani Panda was not new to the constituency and has her personal network along with the saffron party’s cadre. Despite all these, the BJP lost the polls, lost its deposit and also the dream to emerge as an alternative to the ruling BJD.
The election result from western region of the state, considered as a stronghold of BJP, has also given a message that people have rejected the saffron policies. The people’s anger is evident from the fact that the voters who elected BJP in 2014, this time ensured that its candidate lost deposit.
It is another matter to ascertain the cause of BJP’s defeat. The party will take up the issue and make a postmortem as Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who intensively campaigned in Brajrajnagar, said. Another Union Minister Bisheswar Tudu and Sundargarh MP and former Union Minister Jual Oram along with Bargarh MP Suresh Pujari also campaigned for Radharani, but the result was the utter rejection of the BJP candidate by the people. This is for the first time since the 2019 general elections when a BJP nominee lost deposit, leave alone winning the elections in the face of a well-oiled election machinery of ruling BJD headed by Naveen Patnaik. The BJP has not won any of the five by-polls held since 2019. Even the party could not retain its seat in Balasore following its MLA’s demise.
While political analysts take the by-poll results differently, the common man in villages has given a clear message that the Modi government was responsible for the price rise of essential items even as the Centre reduced excise duty on petrol and diesel. There appears to be a lack of trust among the people in the BJP as the Centre either holds or reduces fuel prices before elections. During five state assembly elections, the centre did not change the price of fuel. Price rise is the major drawback for the Modi government.
All the top Odisha leaders of BJP vigorously campaigned at Brajrajnagar along with two Union Ministers. However, it had no impact on the electorates as people have started realizing that the economic policy of the central government has led to price rise which has hit the common people hard. In this context, it is really hard for the BJP to revive its situation. The saffron party is now faced with double trouble, both from the BJD and also from Congress.
Anyway, the BJP’s loss is certainly the gain of Congress even as the BJD remained unaffected in the process. Though the oldest party Congress failed to win the elections and somehow managed to retain its deposit in the Brajrajnagar by-poll, it has gained confidence, which is considered as “sanjivani” for the utterly frustrated party. Two days ago, newly appointed OPCC president Sarat Pattnayak had called upon the party rank and file, to inspire them with the belief that it was possible to fight against the mighty BJD and the BJP. With Congress remaining out of power for 22 years and losing its main opposition party status in 2019, a large number of leaders have deserted the organization and joined either BJD or BJP. The Brajrajnagar result will help stop such migration of old leaders and also encourage new people joining the party.
The leaders in Congress have started describing Sarat Pattnayak as lucky because he was appointed as the new OPCC chief in the midst of the campaigning in Brajrajnagar. As soon as Sarat took the reins of the Congress, the party upgraded its image and its arch rival BJP lost its deposit. Pattnayak has also made it clear that the ruling BJD is the main political enemy of Congress. He expressed confidence that the people of Odisha will never accept the BJP.