Odisha Sun Times Political Bureau
Bhubaneswar, April 15 :
As the campaigning for the second and the last phase of polls in Odisha draws to a close, the election managers of the ruling Biju Janata Dal have reasons to be on tenterhooks.
In 2009, the BJD had won as many as 69 of the 77 Assembly seats that go to polls on April 17. However, there is little hope that they will be able to reach anywhere close to that figure this time. The iinsiders say, the ruling party is all set to lose heavily in this round of polls because of three factors- anti-incumbency, rebel activities and the Modi factor, if not in that order.
The observers feel, while the Modi factor appears to be working in favour of the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, it is the anti-incumbency and rebel factors that would help the Congress to cut into the BJD vote bank in the Assembly polls and cause upsets in at least 15 constituencies.
The charisma of film actors engaged by the BJD doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference as far wooing the voters is concerned, concede party insiders.
“ It’s Naveen Patnaik and he alone who is the star campaigner for us and he is doing is best. Although he is working very hard and addressing 10 to 15 election meetings a day, the big problem with him is that he lacks oratorical skills and people do not understand half of what he reads out from his written speeches,” says a BJD candidate in the Jajpur district.
The expensive publicity blitz highlighting just anything and everything -including certificates from the UN and the Central government – to attract votes also does not appear to have made much dent. The one-rupee rice, promises of pucca houses for all , reminding people of the shower of ‘birth to death’ sops and the height of it all, the 108 ambulances- have failed to do the magic for the party.
That explains why Naveen Patnaik has had to slip into slushy stuff like ” I will serve the state till my last breath” and get offensive against the opposition parties and their leaders.
The crucial problem faced by the BJD is the lack of planning and co-ordination. Most of the veterans, who are busy defending their own seats or securing the future of their kith and kin, have little time for the party.
“ It is not that Naveen Patnaik does not have a think tank to support him but most of its members are non-politicians and greenhorns. There is a saying, too many cooks spoil the broth and that is what is happening to the party’s election plans, “ says a disgruntled senior leader , adding, “ we needed a person of Pyarimohan Mohapatra’s calibre to handle the nitty-gritty of daily electioneering and constituency-wise planning but there is none who can handle that task.”
The fact that there is a perceptible downward slide in the vote appeal of the BJD has been reflected in the latest NDTV opinion poll which has found a massive rise in BJP’s fortune in Odisha .
The channel’s survey report suggests that it is the Modi factor which has helped the BJP gain and that the biggest loser is the Congress. It has also predicted that BJP is all set to become the main opposition party in the state.
However, the NDTV-Hansa opinion poll is mostly about the Lok Sabha polls and therefore, the big question is : will the so-called Modi wave impact on the Assembly poll scenario ?
Observers differ on this issue.
While some believe that, the BJP may win 8 to 10 seats in the second phase, there are others who doubt if the saffron party can win more than 3. The argument that the latter put forward is that the BJP may not take advantage of the’ favourable situation ‘ because it lacks a solid network- a primary requirement for mobilization of votes- in the coastal region.
If BJP does not gain out of the division of the incumbency votes, can the Congress fill in the void ? That question has no ready answers. For, as far as campaigning goes, the Congress camp is in great disarray. The double visits by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul have brought little cheer to the Congress candidates in most constituencies. In fact, most of them are angry over the manner in which the members of the ‘PCC coterie’ hijacked the Gandhis to their own battle zones while leaving the rest high and dry.
“Most candidates have surrendered their fate to Lord Jagannath,” says a veteran Congress leader who believes the party is banking heavily on the chances to win by default.
But that may not be the case at all, argues another senior observer .
According to him, if both BJP and Congress fail to reap benefits out of the strong undercurrent of anti-incumbency in the second phase, the TINA ( there is no alternative) factor will come into play and the ruling party will have the last laugh.
He sums up : “Despite all hypes, predictions and projections about the possible results in the second phase polls, what would ultimately matter is not the so-called ‘waves’ but the undercurrent , something that may not be immediately perceptible but would definitely show up when the counting starts on May 16. Until that happens, the best option for all stake holders is to keep their fingers crossed and take care of their BP.”