In the rural swathes of Odisha, the ruling BJD has harvested a bumper crop in the 2022 Panchayat elections. The party has painted as many as 300 Zilla Parishad seats green and is leading comfortably in over 242 seats.
In contrast, the Opposition stares at a barren landscape, enlisting heavy vote loss. The principal opposition party BJP has won 14 seats and leading in another 24 seats. The GOP (Grand Old Party) won in 14 and leading in another 17 seats.
How A Bumper Crop?
A look at the SEC data shows that majority of BJD ZP candidates triumphed over their nearest rivals by a huge margin in the range of 4k -13k. The margin seems very huge when the contest is at the ZP level.
An analysis of votes polled by BJD candidates in many western, southern and coastal districts reveal that the party had garnered more than 50 percent votes.
Sample the following.
- In all the 5 ZPs of Jharsuguda, the party has secured over 50 percent votes.
- In Jeypore, the BJD candidate had secured 51 percent votes, despite this being Cong veteran Taraprasad Bahinipati's Assembly Constituency.
- In a ZP seats in Bargarh like Ambhabhona and Sohela, BJD candidates secured nearly 60 percent votes.
- Similarly, in Pipili too, the party candidate had secured more than 50 percent votes.
When compared to 2019 Assembly elections, the big trend observed is ruling BJD has emerged victorious in the ZP seats that fall under the 2019 winning constituencies where it had garnered more than 50 percent votes - be it western, coastal or south.
In contrast, in the 2019 Assembly elections, BJP and Congress have not secured over 50 percent votes in any of 32 (23+9) seats. And in 2022 Panchayat polls, the vote share of the parties dipped further.
The above analysis shows that between 2019 and 2022, the ruling party has not only guarded its secured constituencies of 2019 but has also annexed seats of the Opposition.
In fact, the BJD had overturned the 2017 BJP win in ZPs in 2019 itself. The 2022 results are only an extension of the rein - like the wins in Sambalpur, Malkangiri and Mayurbhanj this time. In 2019, BJP has protected the 2017 wins only in Mayurbhanj, Malkangiri and, to some extent, in Sambalpur.
The Congress Show
In 2017 Panchayat polls, the Congress party had won only 3 ZP seats in Koraput and 10 in Rayagada.
In the 2019 Assembly elections, the GOP had given BJD a run for the money. The margin of victory for ruling BJD had been 0.18 percent to 4.7 percent in 2019 polls.
The big message emerging in 2022 is Congress has guarded its vote bank in Koraput district, despite the defection of Kailash Kulesika (who lost the Laxmipur seat by a whisker (0.18 pc) to BJD).
Significantly, when the Congress party has been out of power since 2014 in Centre and since 2001 from the State, its vote bank remained intact, despite defection by leaders.
But the party failed to repeat the feat in Rayagada. And the reason has been that the voter turnout in Rayagada has been lower. Many Congress voters didn't come to voting booths.
The 2022 Key Takeaway
Interestingly, the theme of 2022 has been what BJP couldn't do with PM Modi at the helm, Congress delivered it on the ground by defeating BJD's all game-plan and strategies, at least in Koraput.
Here the analysis zeroes in on the leadership at the local level (Koraput MP Saptagiri Ulaka). Because Congress party is leaderless - both at the State and Centre (Sonia Gandhi is only interim President).
The Green Stamp?
Even after the green shoots of Opposition in some patches, both BJP and Congress have accused the BJD of achieving such a landslide win by pumping 'green stamps' (use of money or distributing currency notes) to buy voters.
The top leaders in both parties like Narsingha Mishra (INC) and Pratap Sarangi (BJP) have attributed the big win to misuse of official machinery and money power.
The Election 'Deewar' (Wall)
In the backdrop of misuse of the money-power allegation by BJP, the classic scene of the all-time hit Bollywood movie Deewar comes to one's mind.
In one of the iconic scenes, when Amitabh Bachchan taunted Shashi Kapoor by saying, "Mere Paas Bank Balance hai, Bangla hai, Gaadi hai, Tere paas Kya Hai.."
Shashi Kapoor's one liner to Big B was 'Mere Paas Maa hai," which made AB tongue-tied.
Cut to the theatre of Odisha politics, the State BJP has PM Modi and Vaccine.
After all, Opposition parties have approached High Court in Kerala, TN etc to remove the photo of PM Modi from the vaccine certificate.
They argued before the court that this will give undue advantage to the BJP, though the Kerala HC had dismissed the plea to remove the PM's photo.
Even, in the recent election campaigns in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Goa, the free administration of vaccines to crores of people has been a big poll issue.
But the Odisha BJP has missed the woods. Besides the vaccine, the BJP has a litany of schemes - from Jal Jeevan to PM Awas, PMFBY, PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana et al.
The BJP Blunder
How BJD is one up over BJP in political marketing of schemes is evident from the following instance.
In the second wave, when the country was gasping for oxygen, Odisha steel plants, mainly the Central PSU steel plants, pitched in with a higher oxygen supply. And Odisha police provided a safe way for transportation from plant to destination.
But BJD grabbed the limelight as it marketed the scene as CM Naveen Patnaik is helping other states by rushing cargo loads of oxygen.
The same has been with BSKY vis-a-vis Ayushman Bharat cards.
Similarly, be it the Farm Laws, fertiliser crisis, backward class quota or par-boiled rice procurement, the BJP remained defensive. As a result, an aggressive BJD not only seizes but has also 'tasted the thunder'.
Many may term the BJD marketing a political strategy. It could be so but BJD has every right to do so.
However, as per former US President Calvin Coolidge, "There is only one form of political strategy in which I have any confidence, and that is to try to do the right thing and sometimes be able to succeed."
The main opposition BJP has failed to put its act together to counter the narrative created by ruling BJD against the former as 'anti farmer' and 'anti backwards'. BJP didn't do the right act and has lost the plot. And the Odisha Congress has lost the plot years ago. The result is both failed to stop the BJD Juggernaut.