The Naveen Patnaik-led BJD has asserted its supremacy in Odisha’s electoral turf like no other. Poll after poll, the regional party has steamrolled its opposition and the latest was the by-election to Brajarajnagar Assembly constituency, which fell vacant after sitting legislator Kishore Kumar Mohanty’s demise. The BJD fielded Mohanty’s widow Alaka Mohanty, who polled a massive 93,953 votes, 61% in total, handing her party a thumping win.
The BJD’s victory was on expected lines but the focus was on the challengers—the BJP and Congress. Interestingly, the grand old party, whose electoral fortunes are in tatters, put up a decent show as its candidate Kishore Patel, a veteran and former minister, bagged the second spot. An embarrassing, distant third was the BJP’s Radharani Panda, who had won from the seat in 2014.
The by-election, effectively, is a story of the BJP’s decimation and agonising losses—one after another—in the state. It had put up a creditable show in the general elections of 2019 when it won a record eight Lok Sabha seats, but has been on a quicksand of sorts ever since, losing all five bypolls. Interestingly, two of these were from parliamentary constituencies held by the saffron party. Not bad enough? The party was relegated to a distant second slot in the panchayat elections as the BJD formed zilla parishads in all 30 districts, having won a historic 766 out of 852 seats, while the BJP managed wins in just 42.
Then came the municipal polls and the party was handed yet another crushing defeat by the BJD, which secured 95 urban local bodies, leaving just six for its rival. A win in Brajarajnagar—part of Bargarh Lok Sabha constituency—represented by the BJP’s Suresh Pujari—could have saved the national outfit the blushes but for its coterie politics and reposing its faith in a poor state leadership. Despite being handed humiliating defeats, the BJP has not learnt its lessons. If it is serious about its Look East policy in 2024, the BJP’s central leadership needs to make urgent changes as it risks losing the motivation and patience of its dedicated grassroots workers.