Himansu Shekhar Rout

Is the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) apprehensive of its performance in the Lok Sabha seats of Odisha? As compared to Assembly seats, is it sensing lower winning chances of its candidates in Lok Sabha seats? Does the ruling party feel that the imported leaders fielded in Lok Sabha seats may not have the acceptability among party workers?

Such questions have cropped up particularly after the statements made by 5T chairperson VK Pandian at a recent meeting of the Biju Shramika Samukhya, BJD's labour wing.  

During his address, Pandian was seen exhorting workers to look at the party not the candidates while voting in the 2024 elections.

Pandian was heard saying, "You will bless the Chief Minister. One blessing will not do. You have to give two blessings to him. Do not look at the candidates, but look at the conch symbol and Naveen Patnaik.”

What do such statements imply ahead of the elections? Many wonder if it is panic coded in entreaties and requests to people.

Has the BJD realized that the strategy of going to LS polls with new candidates is going to backfire?

Will BJD's new strategy work?

It is said that the BJD is haunted by fears of losing ground in the Lok Sabha elections amid reports of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity in Odisha.    

As per reports, the party has given tickets to new faces in 15 out of 20 Lok Sabha seats for which candidates have been announced. In seven Lok Sabha seats, the party has fielded leaders imported from other parties against several BJP heavyweights. 

The ruling party ushered in former Congress leader, Anshuman Mohanty into its fold and has pitted him against BJP’s National Vice President Baijayant Panda in the Kendrapara Parliamentary seat. 

To counter BJP heavyweight and sitting Bhubaneswar MP, Aparajita Sarangi, the BJD has fielded Congress leader Sura Routray’s son, Manmath Routray. 

In the Sambalpur LS seat, the party has fielded its sitting Jajpur MLA and organizational secretary, Pranab Prakash Das against Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.   

BJP's Samir Mohanty taunted the BJD saying, "The ruling party has realised that the ground under its feet has started collapsing. It knows from the way infighting has been taking place inside the party. Despite 25 years of rule, the party does not have enough leaders of its own and is now importing leaders from other parties.”

Congress also lampooned the BJD. Congress leader Biswaranjan Mohanty observed, ”If the BJD has a vote bank in the name of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, why the party is collecting leaders from the Congress and other parties.” 

BJD leader Subash Singh supported Pandian saying, "He said that the people should look at Naveen Babu first and the party symbol Sankha before voting. Nua Odisha should be taken into consideration.”  

How the numbers stack up!

The BJD has reasons to worry about the LS seats. In the 2019 elections, BJD’s seat count came down. In the Assembly elections, the BJP’s vote share was 32.49 per cent and it was 38.8 per cent in the LS elections.

The BJD’s vote share was 44.71 in Assembly polls and it came down to 43.3 per cent in the Lok Sabha seats. Surprisingly, the BJP which got only one Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 election, got eight seats in the 2019 elections.  On the other hand, the BJD which got 20 LS seats in 2014 secured only 14 seats.

Also Read | Odisha BJP accuses senior IPS officer in CMO working for BJD, files plaint with CEO 

Significantly, surveys claim that the popularity of the Prime Minister is increasing while the disenchantment against the BJD government is growing.   

Political analyst and senior journalist Prasanna Mohanty said, "The BJD apprehends losing ground in Assembly polls. It has started changing its strategy of appealing for votes.”

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