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Poll outcome dominates roadside debate


Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, May 11:

With counting of votes just five days away, there is only topic that is being debated by the people across Odisha: the result of the 2014 elections. It is the subject of animated discussion everywhere; from the office canteen to the neighbourhood tea stall and from drawing rooms to bus stands.
Overnight, everyone appears to have turned pollster, strutting out figures at the drop of the hat. Interestingly, the figures being bandied about fluctuate wildly. While some say the ruling BJD would not cross the half way mark, others say the party would get nothing less than 100 seats in the 147-member Assembly.

“All this talk of the Congress bagging 35 seats and the BJP 25 is bullshit. It is Naveen all the way in the rural areas. And that is where elections are won and lost and not on the streets of the capital city,” says Chandan Pati, a student at one such public debate at a paan shop in Gandamunda area here. The ruling party would win more than 100 seats in the Assembly this time, he predicts.

“BJD would not get a seat more than 65,” butts in a middle aged man. BJP would win 40 seats, says this man, making no secret of where his political sympathies lie.

The figures being talked about for the Lok Sabha seats also differ equally wildly. While some say the BJP would win not less than 10 seats, others believe the BJD would walk away with at least 12.

Overall figures, however, are not the only point of discussion in these street-side versions of the ‘Newshour’. Much of the debate is actually about the winning prospects of individual candidates. The names that figure most frequently in these public debates are Narasingha Mishra, Maheswar Mohanty, Jayadev Jena, Srikant Jena, Bijoy Mohapatra, Prasanna Patsani and Pinaki Mishra – though not necessarily in that order.

There are times when the debate about a candidate turns ugly, like it happened at a roadside ‘Newshour’ debate at Jayadev Vihar on Sunday. Hardly had one member of the group finished saying “Bijoy Mohapatra is winning in Mahakalpada” when another protested vehemently.

“Atanu is winning with a margin of at least 10, 000 votes,” said the second man. When the first man scoffed at this prediction, the second man got really angry. “What the hell do you know about Mahakalpada? I belong to the area and know very well what is happening on the ground. It is the 30, 000-strong Bangladeshi vote that would determine the outcome of the election there and Atanu is getting almost all of it,” he says.

The two men then get engaged in a heated debate on the impact that Arabainda Dhali and his ‘daughter’ Sanjita Dhali would have on the voting behaviour of ‘Bangladeshis’. Mercifully, the argument did not go out of hand with both sides agreeing to wait till May 16.