Ramakanta Biswas

While the dismal performance of the BJP in the Panchayat elections in Odisha has baffled many, party’s senior leader Bijoy Mohapatra said he was far from being surprised at the debacle.   

The BJP, which had won 297 Zilla Parishad (ZP) zones in the last rural elections in the State and formed ZP councils in many districts in 2017, is struggling to win even 50 seats this time. As per the latest trends, the BJD has bagged 743 ZP zones out of the 829 counted so far while BJP won 42 zones. The Congress is a close third with 37 zones while 4 went to others and 3 to independent candidates.

“I am not surprised by the results of the Panchayat elections. In my four decades of political career, I have closely seen various elections like Panchayat elections, Municipality elections, Assembly as well as Lok Sabha polls. The kind of preparations we made during 2017 elections was not done this time,” Mohapatra said in an exclusive interview to OTV.  

“Neither meetings, nor were discussions held with local leaders at the grassroots level. No strategy or blue print was prepared, nothing at all. When a party goes to polls with such level of unpreparedness, well, what can it expect other than a miserable defeat,” Mohapatra asked. 

Speaking about BJP’s impressive show in the last elections when the party had secured 297 seats, Mohapatra said, “Our party had not done much preparation. A powerful dissident group of BJD had agreed to vote for us to teach their leaders a lesion. It was seen Mayurbhanj, Kalahandi, Bolangir and many other districts and the party secured 297 seats.”

“However, the party sat on the ego of 297 seats and no efforts were made to retain those dissidents. It was a mistake,” Mohapatra said.

The senior leader said though infighting in the BJP is too high, much of it does not come out in the open. 

Asked if infighting was one of the reasons for the poor result in the elections, Mohapatra said, “The spirit of standing united and accepting or honouring one’s view is not in practice in the party.” 

Speaking about the reasons behind the BJD’s landslide victory, Mohapatra said, “The BJD had been preparing for the elections since the past one year. They were the only player in the field. If there is one team in the field and no other team is around, what will people do? It will be a walkover.”

Mohapatra said the good election management also paid rich dividends for the BJD. 

“From reaching out to people with the achievements of the Naveen Patnaik government to preparing well for the elections, the party was way ahead of others. We have to accept the truth,” he said.  

When asked why the party was not able to cash in on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mohapatra said, “The Modi factor will not work in the Panchayat elections.” 

Explaining further about the elections management of the BJD, he said the State government had announced a string of populist schemes ahead of elections. “Money was transferred to the account of people under several schemes. Besides, election management by senior bureaucrats also contributed to the BJD’s victory.” 

He added further, “For BJD, their leaders manage only 30 percent of the elections strategy while the major part is handled by officers. In their case, political management is 30 percent while the management by officials is 70 per cent.”