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Orissa / Odisha

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD), a regional outfit that came up in 1997, has been in power since 2000 — a record in the state’s electoral history. BJD began its political journey in partnership with the BJP in 1998 and joined the National Democratic Alliance government in 1999, has grown from a modest party to a dominant force in the state's politics. led by the longest-serving chief minister of the state, Naveen Patnaik.

This sleepy state on the eastern coast is received unprecedented attention in 2019 for a variety of reasons — but mainly owing to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s all-out efforts to breach this impregnable fortress. The BJP had never been a major political force in much of Odisha. The only visible presence that the saffron party has had in the last two decades is in the western part of the state. The 2019 elections in Odisha present a unique case where Narendra Modi became the most acceptable face as Prime Minister, but the Biju Janata Dal got an upper hand in vote shares and seats. While the Bharatiya Janata Party has substantially gained in terms of vote share, the BJD retained its popularity.

In the last five years, though the BJP-led NDA government has been generous to Odisha and showered the state with central funds to implement schemes like Ujjwala, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, among others, they have been overshadowed by the plethora of schemes launched by the state government. On last count, the BJD government had launched close to 60 schemes in the state for the poor, women, farmers, disabled and the elderly.

Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal led against the Bharatiya Janata Party in most of Lok Sabha seats in Odisha, early trends showed. Congress on the other hand was losing its grip in the state. BJD led in 12 seats, while the BJP was ahead in 9. The state has 21 Lok Sabha constituencies, 20 out of which were won by BJD in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The lone seat for BJP was won by Jual Oram, who went on to become the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs.

Odisha went for the elections for the 146 seats in Legislative Assembly and 21 Lok Sabha constituencies in four phases, which saw lower voter turnout due to Cyclone Fani. The state has been a bastion of BJD, which also holds power in the state Legislative Assembly. The state Legislative Assembly results trend showing that Naveen Patnaik was to be sworn-in as the Chief Minister for the fifth time. The BJP had struggled to establish itself in Odisha after 2009 - the year Naveen Patnaik broke ties with NDA.

Odisha is among the few states that clearly bucked the Modi wave in 2014 — the ruling party had the consolation of winning a lone Lok Sabha in Sundargarh. In 2014 the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) retained its hold over Odisha with the party sweeping both the assembly and the Lok Sabha polls in the state. The party lead in 110 of the 147 assembly seats in the state, much better than its 2009 performance of 103 seats, with Congress and BJP in the lead on 19 and 14 seats respectively. Four assembly seats went to smaller parties and independents. The BJD also seems set to better its 2009 Lok Sabha record with the party leading on 17 seats (last time it had 14 seats while it ally CPI bagged one) followed Congress and BJP which have lead on two seats each.

bucking the Narendra Modi factor, Naveen has proved that he continues to be the most popular leader in Odisha. His party had gone to the elections all alone this time dumping allies like CPI, CPI (M) and the Nationalist Congress Party.

As Patnaik began his fourth term in office, it is clear that despite criticism, his populist schemes like Rs 1 kg rice, old age pensions and free umbrellas to poor and mobile phones to farmers have worked. The other important factor behind his success has been that despite a string of scams and scandals his personal image has remained intact.

The biggest loser has been the Congress which has shrunk from 27 assembly seats last time to 19 and from 6 Lok Sabha seats to just 2. Internal squabbles have cost the party dear apart from the lack of clear strategy. The BJP, though, has gained compared to last time when it had just 6 assembly seats, the Modi factor has clearly failed to make an impact in Odisha.

BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra, often referred to as Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik’ bęte noire, a founding member of the BJD, had famously fallen out with Patnaik in 2000 and has never won an elections since.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 14:50:18 ZULU