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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: The 2019 battle for ballots in Odisha witnessed all the elements of political craft. Political parties across the spectrum tried all tricks, moves and counter moves to short-change their rivals.

Significantly also, the 2019 polls seems not a 2014 elections encore. In a first, Odisha saw longest ever poll exercise – votes were taken in four phases. And after a decade, 2019 elections have been the most keenly contested one in State’s poll history.

The keenness in the battle was evident from the fact that ruling BJD has to pull out a video of CM Naveen doing a ‘work-out’. Not only ‘video show’, Naveen had to embark on a ‘road show’. The CM had taken a bus campaign tour criss-crossing the State– a first ever of its kind in Odisha polls. And all this, in CM Naveen’s words, is an extra ‘work-out’ by BJD for seeking a mandate for a record fifth term.

In Odisha politics, BJD was never bothered about its rivals till 2014 as the party was availing to the hilt the factor of TINA (There is no Alternative) to Naveen. But 2019 elections had turned the TINA topsy-turvy and ruling BJD reckoned to the fact of a fierce competition at hand.

This has been the turning point of 2019 elections. And Odisha witnessed a personality contest between PM Narendra Modi and CM Naveen Patnaik, not between BJP and BJD.  The battle on ground reveals this hard truth.

For BJP, this proved a rich haul as the party was gung ho in making the Odisha 2019 elections a battle between Modi and Naveen. The Balakot air strike has come for Odisha BJP as manna from heaven. Even, PM Modi himself took the campaign, the UP way, when he said your every vote will come to Modi’s account. And ground reports suggest BJP reaping rich dividend from its war plan to win Odisha.

Though five more days to go for the Odisha verdict to come, ground inputs and assessments hint at a big saffron surge in Odisha. But a nagging input for the saffron party is the surge in vote share has not resulted into a proportionate seat conversion in the assembly seats.

However, the seat conversion rate of BJP was clearly discernible in Parliament seats. Political observers are of the view that the disproportion in seat conversion and vote surge in assembly constituencies was attributed to lack of BJP’s CM face in Odisha. Conversely, BJP reaped big in Parliament constituencies as voters have the face of PM Modi to choose.

And Congress seems nowhere in the race – Lok Sabha and Assembly.

Ground reports suggest BJP having taken winning lead in eight Parliament constituencies. And in four more Lok Sabha (LS) constituencies, the saffron party may emerge winner in a cliff-hanger contest. It seems BJP’s LS tally in 2019 will hover around 9 – 13 seats. However, the tally of BJP in assembly constituencies count around 49 – 63 seats only.

For BJD, the party was going to get a severe drubbing in LS seats. The inputs suggest BJD tally in LS at around 8-12 seats. In assembly constituencies, the party will shrink from its three-digit figure of 108 (the strength went 117 post the 2014 general elections) to a two-digit figure. Ground assessments show BJD tally in assembly constituencies at around 74 – 88 seats. The higher seat conversion by BJD in assembly constituencies may see it scrape through the halfway mark (73), feel observers.

But the disastrous show of 2019 polls is by the Congress party, which started its campaign in Odisha with a bang only to end in a whimper. Like the 2014 LS elections, Congress will not open its account in Odisha.  And in assembly polls, the party stands in a position to win in around 10-12 seats only.

{Disclaimer: The seat predictions are a pure journalistic calculations based on the ground inputs like opinion of voters and vote shares of respective parties since 2009 elections. This is not an exit poll result. The OTV is not liable to the seat predictions made here.}

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