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  • ଓଡ଼ିଆରେ ପଢନ୍ତୁ
Sanjeev Kumar Patro

News Highlights

  • The high turnout in the swing districts hints at the close contest in the backdrop of Modi schemes vs Naveen schemes.
  • Besides, there has been an issue like the Mamita murder case in districts like Kalahandi and Balangir. In order to neutralise, the charge sheet in the case has been filed only days before the Panchayat polls.

Chequered by violence, booth capturing and rigging, three phases of Panchayat elections are over in Odisha. The main drag of this Panchayat polls - Kalahandi - has recorded a bumper voting. Many other swing districts have also registered copious polling.

As per the SEC data, swing districts like Kalahandi, Sundargarh, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Nuapada, Subarnapur and Jharsuguda have recorded brisk polling in the ongoing polls, whereas a district like Balangir, though has recorded a rise in average polling in the first 3-phases, the voter turnout has been on the wane over the phases. And in Deogarh, the average voter turnout in three phases and phase-wise have registered a decline.

These 9 districts in the western part of Odisha host a total of 207 seats (of total 853 seats). In 2017 Panchayat elections, the BJP had captured a whopping 126 seats. Though the overall strike rate of the saffron party in 2017 had been around 61 percent, a district-wise look puts the range between 37 percent in Sundargarh and high of 91 percent in Kalahandi - the central issue of this election (Mamita murder case, which both BJP and Congress had made it their banner issue highlighting nepotism and crime against women).

Voter Turnout And Poll Outcome

As per theoretical and empirical literature of electoral dynamics, a higher turnout is expected when policies of the incumbent had a salutary impact on voters or in case the contest has been very close.

On the contrary, lower turnout indicates voters' poor analysis of schemes and policies put on display by the political parties at the hustings.

And basically, higher or lower turnout in the swing seats gives an indication of the direction of the political wind.

A case study on Odisha vindicates the pattern of poll literature on the ground. Consider the following case.

  • 2009 General Elections: The elections saw a higher turnout in the State. Post the political divorce by BJD, the State's had witnessed a three-horse race - BJD, BJP and Congress.
  • But the poll results sprang a surprise. Despite a multi-party contest, BJD won on record seats by comfortable margins.
  • The ground feedback in polls had been that CM Naveen Patnaik had for the first time launched the Re 2-a-kilo rice scheme the State, after BJP-led Chhattisgarh govt returned to power by the dint of Chaul Baba (The then CM Raman Singh had launched the Re1/kg rice).
  • In 2009, the rate of inflation had been hovering at around 10 percent. Against such a backdrop, the State of Odisha had gone for Rice-vote. And BJD had a good harvest.
  • In 2012 Panchayat elections, the BJD again won the race comfortably based on more populist schemes like Mamata Yojana (cash transfer scheme for pregnant mothers)
  •  Since every household in Odisha had a pregnant woman, the scheme curried favour for Naveen Patnaik, along with the Re 2-a-kilo rice scheme. The higher voter turnout went in favour of BJD as people voted for the schemes.
  • In 2017 Panchayat polls, the aura of Naveen Patnaik had been somewhat shadowed by the Chit Fund scam, on the other hand, the Modi government had started the NFSA scheme announced by UPA in 2013.
  • The heavy subsidy from the Centre under NFSA and aggressive campaigning by BJP eclipsed the halo of Naveen's Cheap Rice scheme.
  • In scheme Vs schemes, the BJP led NDA had rolled out a dozen matching Naveen's schemes -  like the Ujjwala, PM Fasal Bima Yojana, Swacch Bharat et al.
  • Higher turnout was witnessed in the polls. The results sprang a surprise. And BJP had won over 35 percent of seats.
  • In the 2019 Assembly polls, BJD won a majority of the seats in the swing districts. And it had been observed that in districts like Bargarh, where the CM had been the candidate, and BJD wrested more seats from BJP, the turnout had been lower vis-a-vis 2014 elections
  • The data shows that BJD won the assembly seats in 2019 where the turnout had remained constant or had fallen.
  • In contrast, BJP secured a victory where the turnout had increased.
  • The above data lends evidence to theoretical literature that in case of a close contest, the turnout takes a rise.
  • Since in the swing seats, the contests had been close, a drop in turnout went in the favour of ruling BJD.  

The Bottomline

The above analysis indicates what has been cooking in the 2022 Panchayat polls in the State. The high turnout in the swing districts hints at the close contest in the backdrop of Modi schemes vs Naveen schemes.

Besides, there has been an issue like the Mamita murder case in districts like Kalahandi and Balangir. In order to neutralise, the charge sheet in the case has been filed only days before the Panchayat polls.

Going by the past poll trends and the theoretical electoral literature, it will not be easy for the BJD and BJP to repeat their landmark performances in 2022.

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