BHUBANESWAR: After its near annihilation in the 2009 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the BJP is trying hard to retain its vote share which is on the slide. The zilla parishad (ZP) elections will be a litmus test for the saffron party.
The BJP had a vote share of 19 per cent in 2000 when the party fought the elections to the Assembly in alliance with the BJD. In the 2002 election to the three-tier panchayati raj institutions, the BJP managed 18 per cent of popular votes, a marginal fall.
However, the party lost two per cent of its vote base in the 2007 ZP elections while the BJD increased its vote share to 29 per cent. The BJP had won 129 of the total 854 ZP seats.
The BJP’s vote share came down to 15 per cent in the 2009 Assembly elections and the party’s strength in the House substantially reduced from 34 to seven, including an Independent MLA.
Even as the Congress is out of power since 2000, there was hardly any change in its vote share which remained constant at 34 per cent during the last two ZP elections. The party had won 303 ZP seats against 345 by the BJD in 2007. The national party had formed ZPs in 12 districts by winning president posts.
However, the main Opposition party lost eight per cent of its popular vote to the BJD which weaned away another two per cent of the BJP vote in its favour in the 2009 elections. The 10 per cent swing of the vote from the two Opposition parties was enough for the BJD to be firmly in the saddle.
Now a question haunts the Congress spin doctors__ will the party be able to win back the voters, who deserted it in the last general election, in the ZP polls.
Meanwhile, the BJP is trying hard to turn the corner. Although the party is facing funds crunch, senior leaders are pulling out all the stops to ensure the party retains the last tally.