With the five-phase Panchayat elections in Odisha commencing from Wednesday, the swing districts in the State are on the watch out. All eyes on the districts like Bargarh, Sambalpur, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj and Balangir.
These swing districts hold a seat tally totalling 226. The rest of the around 627 seats, which includes largely the districts in coastal and southern Odisha, have always exhibited a herd voting trait in elections after elections.
Historical data shows ruling party wins in a majority (around 90 percent) of the 627 seats. Only in extreme political conditions/upheavals/movements, do these seats go for a change.
Time to take a glance at who is holding the swing. What is cooking in Sundargarh and Nuapada?
In the 2017 Panchayat elections, BJP had secured 13 of 35 seats, Congress won in 5 seats, CPI in 1, Independents in 1 and remaining seats had fallen in ruling BJD's kitty. The result tally shows the limited influence of CPI in the district.
The district has over 10.84 lakh voters. The new voters in the district in this election have been at over 36.8 k. Last year the voter turnout in the district had been around 69 percent.
Biggest Poll Issue In Sundargarh
Rich in mines and forests, the rural households in the district get a distressed lot during the summer months. Because data with the Odisha government shows that a massive over 94 percent of households in the villages depend on tube well/hand pumps for 365 days.
In the Summer months (March-May), the rural areas turn into parched land as the majority of tube wells go dry in the district.
Significantly, even the Odisha government knows that the drinking water crisis is acute in the district, and voters will vote on water issues.
For which, the Odisha Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water Department on July 17, 2021 (only last year) had given nod to Rs 1,175 cr worth drinking water projects in the district.
Besides, the issue of remunerative prices for minor forest produces and the consequent tribal per capita income is also a major issue, given that nearly 86 percent of the villages in the district are tribal villages.
With an aim to foster the poll arithmetic, the ruling BJD had gone for inclusion of former Congress MLA from Talsara, Prafulla Majhi, only in December 2021. The BJD playing real politick preys on Congress vote bank to give a checkmate to strong BJP.
However, given the governance deficiency, and that has been topped up Modi government's 'Har Ghar Nal' Scheme (Piped water supply to every household, the BJP seems in an advantageous position in all the blocks of the district. Pockets of Congress influence is seen in blocks like Subdega, Kutra zones. The Congress vote bank is seen in good measure some blocks in Talsara and Rajgangpur.
CPI(M) influence measured in some blocks in Bonaigarh tehsil.
As per the ground scenario, BJP seems to be in a strong position in 15 ZP constituencies. The winning tally of Congress will witness a sharp fall, as many strong leaders of the party have already been landed in the BJD camp.
The saffron party has a good presence in the district. For which, BJP had been allocated this seat when both BJD-BJP fought the elections in 2000 and 2004 elections.
But with the rise of Congress fortunes in 2004, BJP could retain only one Assembly seat in the district.
Since 2017, the district has turned anti-saffron. The party could win a single ZP of a total of 14 in the last Panchayat elections. Even, in State Assembly Elections 2019, Congress and BJD pushed BJP to third position.
As the district has a high concentration of agricultural labourers, agricultural wages play a major role in deciding winners in the district.
The huge rush for MGNREGA in the district will play a crucial role in deciding the winner this time.
Congress influence is big here as the district is adjacent to Chhattisgarh. In 2017, Congress had won 5 seats, and BJD won 9 seats.
As Chhattisgarh is ruled by the Congress government, and the paddy procurement in the neighbouring State has been very successful, this will play a big role in the elections.