BJP breaches BJD citadel Odisha as Patnaik misses trick, loses support | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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BJP breaches BJD citadel Odisha as Patnaik misses trick, loses support

ByDebabrata Mohanty, Bhubaneswar
Jun 05, 2024 09:56 AM IST

BJD’s poor performance was highlighted by the fact that Patnaik, who was eyeing a record sixth term as CM, lost to the BJP’s Laxman Bag in Kantabanji.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is all set to form the government for the first time in Odisha, taking an unassailable lead over the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) by winning or leading in 78 seats in the 147-member house propelled by a massive anti-incumbency wave, as well as the decision by chief minister Naveen Patnaik to hoist his trusted lieutenant VK Pandian — a Tamil Nadu-born IAS officer — as a potential successor.

BJP supporters celebrate the party's lead in the Odisha Assembly and Lok Sabha election results, in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. (ANI)
BJP supporters celebrate the party's lead in the Odisha Assembly and Lok Sabha election results, in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. (ANI)

The BJD won 51 seats — its worst ever performance since it came to power in the state in 2000.

The Congress — a party marred by desertions — meanwhile was a distant third with 14 seats.

As the results started rolling in, celebrations broke out at the BJP state headquarters in Bhubaneswar as party workers beat drums and fed sweets to each other, while Shankha Bhawan, the BJD head office in the state capital, wore a deserted look.

The BJD’s poor performance was highlighted by the fact that Patnaik, who was eyeing a record sixth term as CM, lost to the BJP’s Laxman Bag in the Kantabanji assembly constituency — one of the two seats he was contesting from — by over 16,300 votes. In Hinjili, the other seat, the CM won by a slender margin of 4,636 votes against his BJP rival Sisir Mishra.

Officials said Patnaik was scheduled to submit his resignation to Odisha governor Raghubar Das on Wednesday morning.

Several members of Patnaik’s cabinet, such as finance minister Bikram Keshari Arukh, revenue minister Sudam Marndi, higher education minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, law minister Jagannath Saraka, panchayati raj minister Pradip Amat, parliamentary affairs minister Niranjan Pujari, and social security minister Ashok Panda, were among who had to bite dust as the BJP juggernaut rolled on.

BJD leader Sasmit Patra said, “We are grateful to the people of the state for allowing us to govern over last 24 years.” He, however, refused to comment on the party’s debacle in the polls.

Observers said that the BJD’s loss came on the back of massive anti-incumbency, pointing out that though the BJP did not have a chief ministerial face, the party benefitted from the popular anger against Patnaik over issues ranging from lack of drinking water and pucca housing to rising unemployment leading to migration to other states.

Political expert SP Dash of Sambalpur University said after the 2019 state polls, Patnaik failed to live up to expectations.

“Though Patnaik managed to improve the state on several parameters, including poverty, infant mortality and women’s empowerment, he could not meet the aspirations of the people who wanted him to do much more... Besides, his failing health was also an issue as people perhaps felt Patnaik may not be up to the mark when it comes to ruling the state. He was not attending the CM office in the state secretariat since Covid broke out in 2020,” said Dash.

The decision by Patnaik to hoist Pandian as a potential successor also fuelled discontentment in the party — the BJD’s entire campaign was centered around Pandian, who hopped from one meeting to another, fuelling speculation that he was just a step away from becoming the next CM. Patnaik did campaign, but hardly spoke in most meetings.

“Though we had started the party and gave our blood and sweat over the last 15-20 years, we were heartbroken when a non-Odia bureaucrat called the shots, deciding who would get tickets. Pandian and his coterie of officers decided who would get the tickets. The district presidents and secretaries were made irrelevant while district collectors and SP called the shots. This led to anger among the rank and file,” said a senior BJD leader, on condition of anonymity.

Sensing the resentment within the ruling party, the BJP swept in, projecting Pandian as the biggest danger to Odia asmita (pride). “Though the people of Odisha trusted Naveen Patnaik, we sensed that they did not have the same faith in a BJD spearheaded by Pandian. We were also helped by Modi’s popularity which was at its peak in Odisha,” said senior BJP leader Suresh Pujari.

Breakdown of the Odisha results.
Breakdown of the Odisha results.

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