The INDIA bloc has not taken shape in Odisha as the constituents of the Congress-led front have failed to arrive at any formal seat sharing agreement to take on the ruling Biju Janata Dal and the BJP in the forthcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the State.

Despite having a 17-party-meet in October last to chalk out a formal strategy which was followed by a few more meetings, the constituents of INDIA bloc have failed to join hands. Their initial plan to organise joint rallies in all the 21 Lok Sabha constituencies did not materialise.

The failure of a formal alliance has resulted in the Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Aam Aadmi Party and a host of smaller parties contesting the elections on their own.

Smaller parties

The CPI has announced that it will contest one LS seat (Jagatsinghpur) and 11 Assembly seats, while the CPI(M) has announced it will contest in one Parliamentary seat (Bhubaneswar) and seven Assembly seats. The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation has also fielded its candidate in Koraput Parliamentary seat and five Assembly segments. The AAP has announced to contest in 37 Assembly seats.

The leaders of different parties that were keen to share seats with Congress to fight the polls are putting the blame on the State Congress leaders for the INDIA bloc not taking off in the State.

The simultaneous elections for the 21 Lok Sabha and 147 Assembly seats in Odisha are scheduled to be held in the last four phases – May 13, 20, 25 and June 1.

The Congress, however, has informally conceded only one Assembly seat – Bonai under Sundargarh Lok Sabha constituency – to the CPI(M). The party is now heading for triangular contests in all Lok Sabha and Assembly seats to fight the main contenders – the BJD and the BJP. It has also not fielded any candidate in Mayurbhanj Lok Sabha letting the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha to contest from there. Last time too, the Congress had an electoral understanding with the JMM.

Interestingly, the Congress had shared seats with the CPI and the CPI(M) in the 2019 elections. Veteran CPI(M) leader Janardan Pati had unsuccessfully contested from the Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat, while Ramakrushna Panda of the CPI had unsuccessfully contested from the Aska Lok Sabha seat.

Losing ground

The Congress has already launched its electoral campaign with former Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressing a public meeting in Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency on Sunday. The party’s efforts is being seen as a case of ‘too little and too late’.

Veterans feel that the Congress had been losing steadily its base to the BJP in the past elections. In 2019, a major chunk of its support base went over to the BJP in the wake of Pulwama and Balakot surgical strikes. This had helped the BJP to capture eight Lok Sabha and 23 Assembly seats. The BJD had won 12 Lok Sabha and 112 Assembly seats, while the Congress had won one Lok Sabha and nine Assembly seats.

This time, if the Congress strengthens its campaign and manages to regain its lost vote bank, the BJP runs the risk of losing the principal opposition space which it had managed to capture in 2019 by relegating the Congress to the third position. This may also help the BJD in further tightening its grip over its support base.

An improvement of the Congress performance could also help the ruling BJD in its electoral prospects. A proper triangular contest works to the advantage of the BJD.