Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, a political recluse on the exterior with nerves of steel within demonstrated yet again what it takes to coast home to another colossal win. And why, it’s not a safe bet to even think of dislodging the regional satrap on his own turf!
Naveen crushed a Modi tsunami that swept the nation, days after his steely administration tamed a catastrophic storm Fani. While BJP on its own had bagged 300 seats, the most by any party in the last three decades, its nationwide strength was not reflected in the numbers in the Odisha assembly just like a sweeping Modi wave had proved ineffectual in the 2014 polls in Odisha.
Till latest trends poured in, Naveen’s BJD had taken an unassailable lead in 112 seats with most of its heavyweights retaining their pocket boroughs. The tally is just a few numbers shy of 117 the BJD won in 2014, its highest ever strength in the state assembly. BJP though remotely unable to give jitters to the BJD in the assembly segments, managed to buttress its score. From 10 in 2014 polls, the saffron outfit looks confident to muster at least 22 seats, leaving the Congress languishing in the modest third spot in state politics.
Analysts and prime time TV debaters are immersing themselves in the enigma that shrouds Naveen Patnaik. Many float the theory of split voting by Odisha’s voters. But Naveen can dump all their speculations and cold calculations. Leading Odisha uninterrupted for 19 years, Naveen realises what it takes to resonate with the masses and has mastered the strategy to conquer their mindscape.
“A euphoric victory across the nation did not translate into big gains for the BJP in the state assembly polls. This gives us a clear lowdown on the chilling fact that mass support has not grown either for the BJP or Congress in Odisha. The BJD has successfully continued its hegemony, drawing on the chief minister’s impeccable credentials and his suite of reforms and people-centric measures”, said a political commentator.
While BJD pocketed huge mandate in the assembly elections, the BJP gave the surefooted regional bloc a scare at the Lok Sabha contest. From one at the 2014 hustings, the BJP is on course to bagging at least eight seats in this year’s Lok Sabha. Led by star contestants like Aparajita Sarangi who humbled BJD’s Arup Patnaik in the high profile Bhubaneswar constituency, the BJP cantered home in some of the key constituencies in western Odisha like Bargarh, Kalahandi, Sambalpur and Sundargarh- the home soil of Cabinet minister Jual Oram. BJP’s toast of prime time TV debates- its national spokesman Sambit Patra gave a shiver down the spine to his BJD counterpart Pinakhi Mishra before conceding a defeat by a narrow margin of some 11,000 votes. For the past two consecutive Lok Sabha elections, Mishra had been negotiating facile victories from Puri in the absence of a viable challenger.