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Straight Fight Ahead

Bhubaneswar: There was a celebration and a “Dahi-Bara” party in Congress Bhavan here after the party won in the Karnataka Assembly elections after trouncing the Mighty BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, there was no “Rudali” (the woman who cries after the death of a man or woman) for the Jharsuguda by-poll, the result of which was announced on Saturday. The party leaders had no remorse over the humiliating defeat of Congress in Jharsuguda, which was once a strong fort of the old party. It appears nobody in Congress is worried or wants to show the real picture of Congress in Odisha.

The Jharsuguda by-poll result has, however, made it clear that Odisha politics is now polarized. There is no more triangular fight among the BJD Congress or BJP as the oldest party of the country has gone to oblivion. Congress is no more a force in the state and the next election fight will be between the BJD and the BJP. Congress will be no more in the political scenario when Odisha goes for the next twin poll for Lok Sabha and State Assembly. The Congress has now 9 MLAs and 1 MP and keeping in view the present situation; the party may not retain its number after the next elections.

In Jharsuguda by-poll, the Congress candidate Tarun Pandey, the son of a former three times MLA Biren Pandey, could secure less than 5,000 votes in the party’s once favourite seat. Sadly Shri Pandey lost his deposit. The Congress’s vote share, which was 10.68%, has declined to only 2.56 per cent. Even as OPCC President Sarat Pattnayak claimed that his party would win in 90 Assembly seats in the next elections, the ground reality is completely different. The Congress candidates have not been able to secure their deposits in subsequent by-elections.

In Padampur by-poll also, the party’s vote share drastically fell to 1.73 per cent from 16.25 per cent in 2019. The party had fielded a strong candidate like Satya Bhusan Sahu in the Padampur by-poll. Similar was the case in Dhamnagar by-poll when the party candidate could secure only 2.18 per cent votes from the 2019 vote share of 4.42 per cent. The party candidates also performed in similar manner in Bijepur and Balasore. However, there was a little bit better performance in Tirtol and Brajrajnagar by-polls.

After Jharsuguda by-poll results were announced, Sarat Pattnayak justified that the Congress rank and file had shifted to BJD after Naba Kishore Das joined the regional party in 2019. Interestingly, the Congress candidate could secure 10.68 per cent vote even after Naba Das shifted to BJD. It has been five years since Naba Das left Congress. His people had also gone to BJD five years ago. Still, the party has not been able to reorganize the organization during the last five year. Rather, the party’s vote share also dropped from the 2019 elections.

In the previous Assembly elections in the state, Congress had secured 16.12 per cent of votes, less by 7 per cent than the 2014 elections. However, the party has failed to improve its performance, rather went down despite the tall claims made by leaders. Now, all politicians in Congress have virtually failed to take up the party cause. Though former Chief Secretary Bijay Kumar Patnaik has of late joined Congress, he does not have any electoral experiences, particularly electioneering. Therefore, the question arises before the people of Odisha that can Congress revive in Odisha or keep itself happy over the victory in Karnataka and other states?.

BJP State President Manmohan Samal in his reaction after Jharsuguda results, said that there will be a straight fight between the BJD and the BJP as the Congress is now deleted from Odisha’s political scenario. He claimed that the people will get two alternatives, either the BJD or the BJP. It will be better for democracy and there will be no possibility of a hung assembly if there are two party systems in the state.

While the Congress is on the verge of extinction from Odisha’s political scenario, both the BJD and BJP are busy in making strategies for capturing the votes of the old party. The BJD has a better chance of capturing the Congress votes as the people supporting the old party have an ideology which is opposed to BJP. BJD candidate Barsha Singh Bariha winning the Padampur by-polll, is a glaring example of how the Congress votes shifted to Naveen Patnaik’s party. Therefore, the BJD is likely to add something more to its kitty without making much labour.

The BJP on the other hand has to do hard work in order to bring some Congress votes to its kitty. As such, the BJP’s vote share has initially increased due to early shifting of Congress votes. Now that the residue Congress votes are left, they may rather help the BJD than the BJP. The Congress votes may be a deciding factor in different assembly segments in the 2024 general elections.