Odisha Polls 2024: More confusion, less clarity!

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | May 04, 2024 IST

Anirudha Mishra

Bhubaneswar, May 04: There have hardly been any major changes in either the Assembly or Lok Sabha election results in Odisha in the last two decades.

 Since 2000, the elections in Odisha have mostly been dominated by the Biju Janata Dal (BJD). As a fallout, the ruling outfit's supremo Naveen Patnaik has emerged as the unchallenged political stalwart in Odisha politics. 

From 2000 to 2009, the BJD-BJP alliance swept elections in the state. As the BJP-BJD honeymoon ended in 2009, the BJD continued its splendid show, much to the dismay of opposition parties.

 In 2019, however, the BJP beat Congress to emerge as the major opposition party in the Odisha Assembly. The grand old party continued to slide in the eastern state and could manage only one Lok Sabha and nine Assembly seats. 

The BJP won 23 MLA constituencies and eight Lok Sabha seats. On the contrary, the BJD retained its dominance with 12 Lok Sabha and 112 Assembly seats (out of a total 147). It was a 'green dominance' in Odisha for the fifth consecutive time.  

As the state heads for the twin polls again, many poll pundits have earlier predicted that there may not be much changes in Odisha's voting patterns this time too.  

But of late, the BJP seems to be emerging as a bigger force to challenge the BJD. Of course, that can only be clear on June 4, 2024, when the poll results would be out.

But unlike in the past two decades, there have been some interesting developments in Odisha politics prior to the twin polls this time. The number of ticket aspirants in the three major parties have shot up like mercury level on a hot Summer noon. In a few seats, candidates have been changed keeping in mind the dissatisfaction and dissident aspects.

Denied party tickets, many aspirants have switched loyalties. Even seasoned leaders have preferred to join a different political outfit, which they have been publicly targeting for years. 

Leaders have changed parties too often. No ticket, no loyalty, seems to be the mantra in Odisha in the 2024 elections for many leaders. The party hoppers and fence jumpers have confused the voters too. 

There is another abnormality this time. Unlike in the past, major national or state issues are hardly being highlighted by the leaders or candidates. Mostly, the twin polls in Odisha are likely to be fought on local issues, believe political analysts.

The two major parties - the BJD and the BJP have claimed that they would sweep the twin polls in the state. Loyalty change, dissidents and wild accusations by rival political parties, would not affect them.

Former minister and BJD MLA Dr Arun Kumar Sahoo, who is seeking a consecutive fifth term from Nayagarh Assembly constituency said, "Under Naveen Patnaik's able and unchallenged leadership, the Biju Janata Dal will sweep the twin polls again this time."

 He continued, "Our party was the first to name its candidates for all MP and MLA seats. Development, clean governance and people-centric approach will once again help us to retain power and serve the people of Odisha." 

Similar reactions came from the BJP as well. Former Union Minister and party's veteran leader Pratap Sarangi, who is seeking his second consecutive term from Balasore Lok Sabha seat, stated that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, the BJP will retain power at the Centre for the third consecutive term. He was optimistic that BJP will form a government in Odisha as well.

Prior to the polls, leaders feeling confident about poll results is not unexpected. But veteran journalist Ravi Das feels the 2024 polls in Odisha appear to be a bit unusual and strange.

Das pointed out that the number of ticket aspirants in the three major political parties have been a bit too high. Denied party tickets, even some veteran leaders have not hesitated to change their political ideologies, and have preferred to  join a party, which offered them a ticket to contest polls, he added.

The confusion about the much talked about possible BJP-BJD poll alliance in the state, which did not materialise, also delayed the declaration of candidates by the two parties. The workers and supporters of both BJD and BJP too were in the dark for a few days, he pointed out.

Dearth of major issues during poll campaigns is another grey area in 2024, he lamented. Neither the national, regional or state specific issues are being raised by leaders, which is something very strange, he quipped.

As leaders hop parties, the voters are likely to get confused, Das feared. However, he hoped despite intense poll campaigns, neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik are likely to target each other personally, which is a healthy political sign.

Asked about his party's approach in the forthcoming polls, former OPCC president and senior Congress leader Prasad Harichandan replied that the grand old party is positive about the poll outcomes.

He added that long before the talks about the INDIA Block alliance, 18 political parties in Odisha, including the Congress, decided to go for an alliance, but somehow that did not materialise. 

Harichandan further stated that in 2019, Congress left three Lok Sabha seats to its three alliance partners in Odisha. But the alliance partners could not win, and ultimately that affected the overall vote share of Congress in Odisha.

The Congress is determined to do well in both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections this time, he expressed optimism.

Senior journalist and political analyst Prabhu Kalyan Mohapatra did agree that the downfall of Congress in Odisha has allowed the BJD and BJP to win more seats and increase their vote shares. 

Congress needs to improve its grassroots level organisation and its leaders must put up a joint effort to help the party regain its position and acceptability in Odisha, Mohapatra suggested. 

However, he too pointed out that the 2024 twin polls in Odisha, appear to be quite confusing. Major issues not being raised in poll campaigns indicate that the elections In Odisha are likely to be fought mostly on local issues, he sighed.

Since government is a continuous process and elections are part of democracy, political parties and candidates showing desperation to win the election battle is not new. 

But whichever party forms the government at the Centre or comes to power in Odisha, the state's progress and interests must not be compromised at any cost, the leaders and political analysts unanimously agreed.    

  • Congress
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi
  • Biju Janata Dal (BJD)
  • Election 2024
  • Odisha Election 2024
  • BJP
  • BJD
  • Naveen Pattnaik

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