Odisha voters give conflicting signals, keep parties guessing

Amiti Sen Bhubaneswar | Updated on April 11, 2019

After 19 years of having Naveen Patnaik at the helm, voters seem ready for a change. File Photo   -  The Hindu

While main contest seems to be between the BJD and BJP, the Congress, too, is trying its best to bounce back

After 19 years of having Naveen Patnaik at the helm, voters seem ready for a change. But to what extent it will translate into seats for the BJP, or even the Congress, remains an open question.

“Many say the people of Odisha have decided to vote for the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the Assembly and the BJP at the Centre. It may be true as the BJP has fielded some good candidates, with an impeccable track record, in the Lok Sabha constituencies. But I think the estimates of the BJP winning 12 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats are a bit far-fetched,” said Bijaya Behera, a radio-taxi driver from Cuttack.

Ranjan Kumar Mohanty, coordinator of Odisha Election Watch, a civil society organisation, said: “The voters in Odisha are a confused lot as candidates are switching parties like never before.”

Candidates being denied ticket by one party are being immediately taken in by the other, and ideologies seem to have lost their meaning, he said, adding that this was making it difficult for the voter to decide.

In Kendrapara constituency, which has been traditionally a “BJD bastion”, two-time MP Baijayant Panda’s switch to the BJP has created uncertainty over whom the people will vote for — the party or the candidate.

BJP contestant for the Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha Constituency Aparajita Sarangi, however, is sure that the people in Odisha will vote for her party as they are tired of the corruption. “Popularity of the BJD has waned drastically in the last five years and people say they want change. They are showing enthusiasm for the BJP. The party’s organisational strength has also improved which will get us results this time,” said Sarangi, who joined the party a few months back after resigning from the IAS.

BJD’s contestant from the Cuttack Lok Sabha seat Bhatruhari Mahtab brushed away BJP’s claim of being the people’s choice.

“During the previous Lok Sabha elections, too, the BJP created hype around Narendra Modi and he campaigned vigorously. Despite that, they got just one seat. The people trust Naveen Babu,” Mahtab said.

Ganesh Rao, a BJD supporter in Puri, said Patnaik’s work in the social sector alone was enough to pull him through. “Women get monetary support from the time of their pregnancy till the child grows up. Schools are providing quality education. PDS is functioning well. People also get money and certain items for the last rites of the dead,” he said.

What critics say

Critics said the BJD leadership doesn’t have control over the party any more. “People think this is the last term of the BJD. So when they don’t get a ticket they just resign,” said Mohammed Moquim, Congress’ candidate from Cuttack.

“While the BJD has declined, the Congress has grown in the State. The BJP, too, is trying to increase its influence. So in most places, it is a triangular fight,” he said, adding that the Congress’ tie-up with the Left parties would also serve the party well.

Published on April 11, 2019

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