BJD, BJP await results, history beckons Naveen Patnaik

The polls thus, have been the most fiercely fought in the recent history.
Naveen Patnaik and Narendra Modi image used for representation
Naveen Patnaik and Narendra Modi image used for representationPhoto | Express

BHUBANESWAR: With counting of votes set to begin on Tuesday morning, a nervous anticipation was palpable in both the ruling BJD and main opposition BJP as the electoral results are set to be a thriller, both in the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats, in Odisha.

These elections hold high stakes for the major political parties. While BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik is making a bid for a record sixth consecutive term and becoming the longest-serving chief minister in the country, the BJP has set high targets for Odisha in its ‘400 Paar’ mission along with grabbing power in the state.

The polls thus, have been the most fiercely fought in the recent history. The exit polls have also thrown up intriguing prospects for both the BJD and the BJP. In the past elections, the BJD dominated both the Lok Sabha and Assembly spheres while this time, the exit poll projections give the saffron party a clear majority of Parliamentary constituencies. The Assembly poll projections also show huge gains for BJP and if these come true, the seat tally of the saffron party may be more than double.

Unlike in the past, the BJP made an aggressive bid to wrest power from the BJD in this election. The BJP campaign mostly focused on the “Odia Asmita” (Odia pride) and pointed its attack at bureaucrat-turned-politician and Naveen’s close aide VK Pandian. It also sought to stir up the anti-incumbency factor by pointing at the failing health condition of the chief minister.

The saffron party promised to free Odisha from the grip of an outsider, targeting Pandian. Besides, the pro-incumbency factor which propelled BJD to big wins in past elections also seemed to be absent this time.

The BJP pressed its top leadership into the campaign heat in Odisha with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the charge by holding rallies through all the four phases, while Union Home Minister Amit Shah, national president JP Nadda, a host of Union ministers and chief ministers, particularly Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma virtually held meeting and rallies covering almost all seats and regions of the state.

The BJD also strongly countered the BJP’s campaign by stating that insult of the chief minister by its leaders will not be tolerated by the people of the state. The BJD campaign led by the chief minister and the party’s chief election strategist Pandian focused on welfare measures implemented by the government and its major promises of free electricity from July, health coverage for all, scholarships for all students among other freebies.

The big question of this election is poised to be answered in a few hours from now. Will the chief minister make history by winning elections for the sixth term or the BJD will bite the dust following a focused and well-managed campaign by the BJP?

Amidst the talk of a BJP surge, all eyes will be on the results of the Kantabanji Assembly constituency, the second seat from where the chief minister is contesting besides Hinjili in Ganjam district.

Other heavyweights in the fray include Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan from Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat where he is pitted against BJD organisational secretary Pranab Prakash Das. The national BJP vice-president Baijayant Panda has entered the fray from Kendrapara while former Union minister Jual Oram is again testing his luck from Sundargarh. Oram is facing hockey legend and BJD candidate Dilip Tirkey in the seat. Besides, BJP’s national spokesperson Sambit Patra is pitted against former Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik of BJD in Puri.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJD had won 12 seats while BJP won 8, leaving one seat for Congress. In the Assembly, BJD had won 113 seats, BJP 23, Congress nine seats, CPM and Independent one seat each.

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