Blood is being spilled on the streets of Odisha as the state scripts many firsts this poll season. Veering from its hitherto peaceful premise, the state, which has emerged as a high-stakes political battlefield in the 2019 elections, seems to have taken the war quite literally as poll violence has been unleashed in many regions.
At least three murders and scores of incidents of violence, including organised attacks on political adversaries, have been reported even as the state is set to complete the third phase of elections on Tuesday with the last to be held on April 29.
On March 25, the state was rocked by the gruesome murder of Ramachandra Behera, an independent candidate in the 2014 polls, who was all set to join the BJD in Keonjhar, over political enmity. A BJP mandal president in Khurda, close to Bhubaneswar, was subsequently gunned down with the party accusing the ruling BJD of the murder. In the last two days, violence has reached its peak.
Congress state president Niranjan Patnaik and other party workers sustained injuries after they were attacked in Keonjhar. In Bhubaneswar too, there has been an unprecedented spurt in poll violence marked by bomb attacks on offices and candidates belonging to both the BJP and BJD. And former minister and BJD strongman Pradip Maharathy was arrested on Monday for attacking Election Commission officials, who had gone to inspect his farmhouse in Pipili for illegal stashing of cash and liquor.
Odisha is not West Bengal, UP, Bihar or Andhra Pradesh where poll violence is prevalent. But this time, the state appears to be brazenly moving in that direction. And all three major parties are trading charges. The signs are certainly ominous for the state that has upheld high standards of political civility over the years. This journey down the slippery slope might prove to be very costly. The onus is thus on leaders cutting across political parties to protect and preserve the values of the democracy.