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Early Election!

Bhubaneswar: As the entire state is guessing whether an early assembly election will be held in Odisha, the people have started making political calculations. Who will benefit from an early poll and who to lose? For whose interest the state may go to polls at least six months ahead of its schedule? The questions are many. While the state’s governing party leaders are tight lipped about the early polls, opposition BJP and Congress leaders are agog about it and blame it on BJD.

While opposition parties alleged that the state should not be pushed to two elections in a gap of just six months, the regional party remained silent and claimed that it was ready for polls whenever it happens. The opposition parties allege that if the state government prefers to go for an early poll, the state has to make double expenditure in conducting two elections. This apart, all developmental works will be stopped for six months if there is an early election.

Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan was first to make it public that he heard that the state government may go to polls early. The saffron party has strong feelings that the state’s BJD government will prefer to go to polls this time along with five other state assembly elections in December.

Actually, the state should go to general elections for both the Assembly and Lok Sabha in the month of March-April 2024, after the examinations of students are completed. These months are considered as election months in Odisha since 2004. The state has been holding the simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and Assembly since 2004 and therefore saving a lot of public money. This has been very beneficial for the state as well as for the ruling party. However, the 2019 general elections for the Lok Sabha proved costly for the governing party when the opposition BJP won in eight seats and BJD’s tally came down to 12 from 20 in 2014. The BJP could make a big gain by securing 8 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats while its tally in 2014 was only one (Sundegarh won by Jual Oram).

In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP candidates made significant gains and won in Bhubaneswar, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Kalahandi, Bolangir and Sundergarh seats. However, in 2014, the BJP had only one seat. The BJP’s vote share in 2019 elections was 38.4 percent from just 21.9 per cent in 2014. Similarly, the BJP’s vote share in the assembly election also increased from 18.2 per cent in 2014 to 32.5 per cent in 2019.

The BJP’s spectacular rise in the Lok Sabha elections, is certainly a major factor for which the BJD will like to separate elections in the state. As the people of Odisha have now become familiar with split voting, the BJD is becoming a victim. People generally voted for BJD in the Assembly elections and preferred BJP in the Lok Sabha polls for which the saffron party could win in eight Lok Sabha seats.

If there is separate election for Lok Sabha and State Assembly, the BJD leadership believes that it can win more Parliamentary seats. The people will not get an opportunity to split their votes which ultimately helped the BJP in the 2019 elections. This apart, if there is a separate election, the BJD will be more focused on Parliamentary seats while the top BJP leaders concentrate in other states. The BJD’s sole concentration will be on Parliamentary seats by which the regional party will certainly make a difference.

This apart, the BJD, which is confident of forming the next government in the state in 2024, consider that the results of the Assembly elections (if held earlier) will have a big impact on the Lok Sabha polls. The BJD is also confident that the BJP may not repeat its 2019 results as the saffron party is yet to make its booths strong as desired by top saffron poll strategist, Union Minister Amit Shah. The BJP, which has been preparing to go to polls in March-April 2024, will not be fully prepared to face the election six months ahead of its schedule.

The newly appointed BJP President Manmoahn Samal, though formed his team at the state level; he is yet to restructure the districts. When the district level organization is not ready for the polls, how come it expects to strengthen the booths at ground level? Therefore, the advantage will certainly go to the Governing BJD which has already made a spectacular win in the 2022 panchayat and urban polls.

Therefore, an early poll may be beneficial for the BJD than any other party. The elections will be held when the BJP or Congress are not prepared for it. As the developments are taking place at a fast pace in Odisha’s political arena, no one would be surprised to hear about an early poll. In another indication, the BJD government has not yet convened the monsoon session of the Assembly while many states have completed the process so far. The state may go for only one session before the government makes its intentions clear in regard to the early elections. However, things will be cleared by September 15 as it looks now. While political circle is agog with early poll, legal luminaries opine against it. They cite several judicial pronouncements on such polls and if the State Assembly is dissolved at an early date, the Centre may go for President’s Rule in the state, which Governing BJD may not like it.