An analysis of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's shooting electoral graph since the 2009 elections drop big clues on how the State is heady with personal voting in election after election
Data Shows Odisha Votes For Charismatic Leaders
For the Opposition in Odisha, the adage of American novelist F Scott Fitzgerald 'Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat' holds little hope.
Because there is little of the phenomenon of 'partisan' voting (means voting on a party basis) in Odisha. 'Personal' voting (means voting on leadership persona) has been dominating the State since independence.
In order to 'taste the thunder' in the poll battlefield, the opposition parties in the State have to deliver a charismatic leader to take on the Naveen Patnaik by horns.
An analysis of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's shooting electoral graph since the 2009 elections drop big clues on how the State is heady with personal voting in election after election.
Charisma Vows Odisha
The poll history is evident how the State voters were vowed by or despised of charismatic leaders. In the 70s and 80s, voters in the State had voted for or against personalities, not parties. The State electors voted en-bloc either for or against (especially after the emergency) the late Smt Indira Gandhi.
Similarly, in 1990, the die was cast in the State on personalities. Voters took a stand against the late JB Patnaik, only to repose faith in the late Biju Patnaik.
However, the year 1995 taught a lesson or two on tact in the polity. The Congress Party fought the election under the leadership of the then PM PV Narashima Rao. No CM face had been declared. The party cleverly sent down the message that a tribal will adorn the CM's chair. Late Narashima Rao appointed six cabinet ministers and a dozen MPs in Odisha to oversee the 'Operation Hand'.
The polity of tact played with élan made the fall of mighty Biju Patnaik, despite sweeping the 1992 Panchayat polls.
In the late 90s, the domination of BJP veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee in national polity saw the voters in Odisha getting swayed by the 'Atal' charisma. A newbie party BJD took birth and tied the nuptial knot with the Atal-Advani led BJP in childhood itself.
In 2000, the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced the name of Naveen Patnaik, who was then the Union steel Minister, as CM candidate for Odisha.
How charisma works wonders in Odisha is reflected from the fact that CM Naveen Patnaik preponed the Odisha Assembly by nearly a year only to go the hustings when the BJP was fighting the 2004 polls under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Naveen acquired the halo of charisma by donning the Mr clean garb in State polity. And to take the charisma to the masses, he borrowed the Re 2-a-kilo rice scheme from neighbouring chaul baba (the then Chhatisgarh CM Raman Singh).
As the BJP graph then was on a downhill, the bachelor CM had annulled the child marriage with BJP and jumped to the 2009 poll fray with multiple alliances with smaller parties like NCP and left.
The period of 2000-2009 had taught the important political lesson of how to cultivate charisma in politics. In 2009, Naveen-led BJD garnered for the first time over 44 per cent votes.
Enter The Modi
In the 2014 Assembly elections, the denuded BJP had got their top warhead called the 'Modi missile'.
Odisha voters' dalliance with personality voting was to fore again as the 'Modi missile' sliced away nearly 1 percent vote share from Naveen Patnaik's kitty. The Party's vote share fell down to around 43 percent, when BJP saw an accretion of nearly 2 percent. On the other hand, Congress party lost nearly 5 percent vote share.
The above data shows nearly 1 percent of BJD voters had switched sides in 2014 and another nearly 1 percent were Congress voters. The other 4 percent of Congress voters didn't turn for voting.
Significantly, the chipping away of 1 percent BJD votes by Modi-fied BJP had happened despite Naveen Patnaik rocking the charismatic chart as - Mr Clean and Man with 'MAMATA' ( a cash transfer scheme for pregnant mother). Till then the Chit fund scam had not tumbled out.
This analysis shows how a section of State voters was in search of a charismatic persona. Moreover, the emergence of Modi on the political horizon has amplified the vulnerability of the BJD vote bank.
After a stint of five-year tenure, the Modi charisma had touched Himalayan heights. For Odisha BJP, they had a supersonic missile now. The effect was discernible to all. BJP garnered a historic 38.88 percent vote in Lok Sabha elections, Naveen Patnaik drew a status quo with around 43 percent vote share.
The Congress party vote share in Lok Sabha plunged to 13.99 percent from 26 percent in 2014. In 2022 Panchayat polls, the party had secured a voter share of around 13.6 percent.
It is significant to mention that the vote share of BJP in Odisha Lok Sabha polls in 2014 was at 21.88 percent. The party's vote share grew supersonically by nearly 17 percent. And this time BJP picked up a fraction of BJD votes, but chipped away nearly 16 percent Congress voters.
How Odisha voters have leniency for the charismatic persona in the polity is evident from the facts given below.
The data makes it amply clear that with Modi being not a factor in Odisha Assembly elections, the Congress and BJD voters went back to their own party fold. Moreover, it shows as the Opposition in the State has no charismatic general to lead their battle against the mighty Naveen Patnaik, they keep losing vote share.
In the recently concluded Panchayat polls, BJP votes took a tumble from 39 percent in 2019 Lok Sabha and 32 percent in 2019 Assembly poll to 30 percent in 2022 panchayat polls.
Similarly, Congress saw its vote kitty thinning to 13.6 percent from 17 percent in 2019 Assembly polls, and 13.99 percent in 2019 LS polls.
In contrast, Naveen-led BJD took its vote share to 52 percent from 44.7 percent in 2019 Assembly polls and around 43 percent in 2019 LS elections.
The above crunching of data over the year shows that when Congress needs an Indira Gandhi or a willy Narashima Rao and power in Delhi to trounce Naveen Patnaik, for BJP it is very clearly written on the wall - Narendra Modi.