The clock for the poll season in Odisha has started ticking fast. Four months down the line, the State will dip in the rural poll flavour. And as the election season is approaching fast, the fever of party hopping has gripped Odisha.
Odisha today learnt it officially that former Congress strongman Pradeep Majhi has changed the ship. He forsakes the 'Hand' of the Indian National Congress and is gearing up to blow the 'Conch'.
Announcing the changing political canvas, Pradeep Majhi said, "As a Congress member, I couldn't carry out the developmental works in the undivided Koraput region. And Congress is unlikely to come to power in near future. On the contrary, BJD has given a stable government and wining big year after year. So, I quit Congress for the sake of the people."
The address by the senior tribal leader reminds one of the famous sayings of Winston Churchill, "Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of the party."
Nabarangpur Poll Politics
The jumping off the ship in politics has been principally linked to loss and gain - for the party and the individual. As BJD is all set to take Pradeep in its wings, time to take a reality check on the gain and loss for the BJD and Majhi.
Pradeep Majhi's birthplace is Jharigram. This constituency is in BJD's pocket since 2009. He contested for the first time in the 2009 Parliamentary elections when both BJD and BJP had parted ways. He won by polling 3.08 lakh votes against 2.78lakh by BJD and 1.57 lakh by BJP.
In the 2004 elections, INC candidate Chandrasekhar Majhi polled 3.35 lakh facing the combined BJD-BJP candidate Parsuram Majhi, who polled 3.6 lakh votes.
The poll numbers show Majhi in his debut election polled fewer votes than his predecessor Congress candidate.
Pradeep fought the 2014 election when the Modi wave was sweeping the nation. He polled 3.71 lakh votes, whereas BJD's Balabhadra Majhi secured 3.74 lakh votes. BJP's Parsuram Majhi bagged 1.4 lakh votes.
In the last general election of 2019, BJD's Ramesh Chandra Majhi secured a high of 3.92 lakh votes. Pradeep as INC candidate polled 3.42 lakh votes and BJP candidate (Balbhadra Majhi) polled 3.42 lakh votes.
The poll arithmetic tells a tale. Nabrangpur has been a traditional Congress constituency. The tribal voters vote for Indira amma. Rahul Gandhi has been a star campaigner in the constituency by the virtue of Indira's grandson. The following poll numbers are evident.
In 1998, the vote polled by Congress candidates in the Nabarangpur constituency was around 2.5 lakh as against joint BJD-BJP candidate's votes of 2.06 lakh
But in the 2004 elections, when Congress returned to power, and when Sonia and Rahul were helming the campaign, the votes polled increased to over 3 lakh. And when Congress was seeking re-election with Rahul as a prospective PM, the votes polled rose to 3.71 lakh.
And Pradeep was then known as Rahul Gandhi's close confidante in Odisha.
However, with prospects of Cong having turned dim during 2019, the votes polled by Cong candidate dropped to 3.4 lakh.
The above poll analysis shows Congress' fortune in Nabarangpur is linked with the Gandhi family, not to any particular candidate. And this is what made Pradeep jump the ship.
The Gain And Loss Principle
Politics in India is based on the gain and loss principle. A look at the assembly constituencies shows BJD has sheer domination - occupying 3constituencies in the district and INC winning two.
They why BJD is taking Pradeep with open arms?
The 2019 Parliamentary elections had given the ruling party a run for the money. When BJD didn't give the ticket to the then sitting MP Balabadhra Majhi, he jumped to the BJP ship and went on to poll 3.4lakh votes against BJD's 3.92lakh.
The BJD strategic team decided to wean away Pradeep Majhi to break the Congress vote bank. Because they knew that the party had already hit the roof. So they played the split game in poll politics.
However, as the Congress votes in Nabarangpur are linked with the Gandhi family, it remains to be seen how many chunks BJD will eat away?
It is well known that Ramesh Chandra Majhi has been the powerful BJD leader in Nabarangpur. He is also in good books with BJD's strategic team. And if highly placed sources are to believed, BJD will not be going to disturb the applecart there.
So, The Question Is What Pradeep Will gain?
As per top sources in ruling BJD, Pradeep Majhi will be Party's Rajya Sabha nominee in July 2022. The Party will make him South Odisha's representative in place of N Bhaskar Rao, whose 5-year tenure is going to end next year.