Orissa to witness electoral battle between two alliances
In a departure from the past, the ensuing Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Orissa would witness an electoral battle between two pre-poll alliances with Congress leading one and the ruling BJD-BJP forming the other.
The scene was different as long as the stalwart in Orissa politics Biju Patnaik was alive as the battle lines were then firmly drawn between the party led by him and the Congress.
But the situation had undergone a drastic change after his death in 1997 when Biju Janata Dal, an offshoot of the erstwhile Janata parivar decided to join hands with BJP which made substantial inroads into the Adivasi-dominated western part of the state mainly due to the development work done by RSS.
Changing their mindset about forming alliances, Congress which had suffered a big jolt in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the state, decided to cobble up a front with all other opposition parties including CPI-M and CPI to take on the BJD-BJP combine.
BJD-BJP alliance which had captured 16 out of 21 seats in the Lok Sabha polls in 1998, had swept the 1999 parliamentary poll winning 19 seats and subsequently assuming power in the state in 2000 securing 106 of the 147 assembly seats.
AICC General Secretary in charge of the state Digvijay Singh admitted that Congress, despite its lack of experience in coalition politics, had forged the alliance this time to defeat BJP and its allies.
Stating that the Congress victory in only two seats in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections was not the proper reflection of its strength, party sources said the Congress had lost a substantial number of seats by a narrow margin due to split in opposition votes.
The party's tie-up with the left including CPI-M and CPI besides Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was a move in that direction as they had influence in some pockets having over 30 assembly seats, the sources said.
Poll observers say that the Congress which had experienced a negative swing of slightly over four per cent in 1999 election, was likely to increase its vote percentage together with its poll partners.
They say that despite bagging nearly 37 per cent votes in the last Lok Sabha poll, Congress had won only two seats while BJP with 24.63 per cent votes managed to capture as many as nine seats primarily due to its alliance with BJD.
If anti-incumbency wave worked against the ruling BJD-BJP combine, Congress might regain its fortune in the state, they feel.
Aware that the ruling coalition might experience negative swing, the BJP was leaving no stone unturned to retain its hold.
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had already campaigned in the state while Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani will criss-cross the state covering 28 assembly constituencies with his Bharat Uday Yatra from Monday before it concluded at Puri on April 14.