Seventy-seven Assembly constituencies of coastal and north Orissa that vote in the second phase on Thursday would determine whether Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik gets a third consecutive term in office.
Out of these 77 seats, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance had won 49 in 2004.
The alliance is dead and the BJD is not a favourite to win many seats in the 70 Assembly and 10 Lok Sabha constituencies that voted in Phase 1. Hence, Thursday's vote is critical for the BJD and Patnaik if he is to become the first Orissa CM to win three consecutive terms in office. Not even his father Biju Patnaik or his bete noire JB Patnaik have had three consecutive terms. Both Biju and JB Patnaik won twice on the trot. J.B. Patnak got a third shot at power in 1995 after a five-year gap.
The simultaneous polls in Phase 2B also involve 11 Lok Sabha constituencies, of which the BJD hold eight, the BJP two and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha has got one. The Congress, which drew a blank, is keen on a comeback and BJP wants to make the most of the unsteady post-split poll scape.
The importance of Orissa could be gauged by the fact that Congress and BJP's top leaders — Rahul Gandhi and LK Advani chose this state to launch their electioneering for second phase. Between then and now, Sonia Gandhi, Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha have addressed many rallies.
“The BJP and Congress invited their stars… but we have got the superstar (Nav- een) whose popularity will tilt the balance decisively in favour of BJD,” said Bhagirathi Badajena, BJD candidate from Bhubaneswar (North).