Come Wednesday, political parties across the spectrum will sit for their Term-I examinations. All sort of fancy footwork, manoeuvres et al by the parties have begun on war footing.
Mind games are on. BJD talks of securing a two-thirds majority. BJP claims to better the 2017 record and the GOP asserts Congress will present a creditable performance.
Given that the political racecourse in Odisha has become a two horse-race derby from 2017 onwards, but this being a grassroots election, will the rural voters play horses for courses?
In the Phase-I elections on Feb 16, nearly 58 percent of the Zilla Parishad (ZP) constituencies fall in the State's western and coastal belt. Of the 202 seats for grab, nearly 120 are in the western and coastal belt of the State. However, when around 69 seats in the coastal region will go to the polls on Wednesday, voting will take place in around 47 seats in western Odisha.
Time to know what the winds whisper when winter is taking a backseat and the spring stepping on the gears. Here are the permutations and combinations, district wise.
The district will see polling in 10 ZP constituencies on Feb 16. A total of over 3.9 lakh voters in two Blocks of Bhograi and Jaleswar will elect their ZP representatives. While there are 6 seats in Bhograi, 4 are in Jaleswar.
In 2017 polls, BJD had made a clean sweep. All others had drawn a blank.
The poll history shows Bhograi is a forte of veteran BJD leader Ananta Das. Since 2004, the BJD's vote bank has seen accretion. However, this is the one constituency where Congress has a solid voter base. The party used to dominate the Block in the 80s.
But the votes polled by BJD have been so large that Congress could not wrest a single ZP seat in 2017.
Cut to 2022. The Congress has grown weaker in Bhograi. And BJP is not in a position to take the BJD bull by the horn. The ruling BJD is enjoying the biggest vote bank at present.
The poll arithmetic hints at the repeat of 2017 performance. The ruling BJD seems sitting on the winning pole.
As far as Jaleswar is concerned, the poll dynamics looks quite dicey. The electors of this Block had never exhibited the 'herd voting' characteristic. The Assembly seat swings over from Congress to BJD, BJP et al.
In 2017, BJD had made a clean sweep. Why this is considered a swing seat is, the votes polled by the BJD in 2017 had taken a beating. In many polling booths, the BJD-BJP gap had narrowed. Though BJD has an edge over BJP, the seat may throw some surprises.
This western district of the State will be going to polls in the first round of Panchayat polls. A total of over 2.7 lakh voters in 8 ZP seats of Patnagarh, Belpada and Khaprakhol will exercise their adult suffrage.
The bastions of Patnagarh and Belpada have been a seat royale for BJP. The seats fall under the reign of BJP veteran Kanak Bardhan Singhdeo - the Maharaja of Patnagarh.
In 2017, BJP went for a clean sweep in Belpada and Kaprakhol. And in Patnagarh, it was a 2:1 score- means 2 for BJP and 1 for BJD.
Cut to 2022. The vote bank of BJD in Belpada and Patnagarh have shown a rise. But the gap between both the parties is quite narrow. Even, in Khaprakhol, BJD has shored up its voter base marginally up over BJP.
Given that the shore up is marginal, the ZP seats may swing either side in the Panchayat polls. The organisational muscle of both parties will be tested in this election. Recently, railways have okayed the Patnagarh rail link.