Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar:  With Sambalpur, the nervecentre of Western Odisha, going to polls on Tuesday, what keeps one’s eye peeled for is will BJP dig out a win after losing narrowly to BJD in 2014? As it is said victory can be made out, all the three principal players – BJD, BJP and Congress – have put in strategies and counter strategies to checkmate their opponents.

As a part of the strategy, all the three principal players have changed their horses this election. While BJD has fielded former bureaucrat Nalini Pradhan from the Sambalpur LS, BJP has made Nitin Gangadev, sitting Deogarh MLA, its face and Congress pitted senior leader Sarat Patnaik from the seat.

The parties have put all their might to clinch the race, but how will the poll arithmetic unravel for the three players in the coming 2019 elections?

The ground scenario tells about dipping fortunes of Congress in as many as five assembly segments in the LS seat. Congress is still holding some ground in two assembly segments – Chenndipada and Rairakhol. While erosion of BJD votes in a big way is not being observed, the significance is BJP surge is greater in comparison to BJD in six assembly segments, except Chenndipada where the BJD lead is much higher than BJP. Riding on the Modi wave, BJP may garner on an average of around 20,000 votes more in the six assembly segments under Sambalpur LS in the upcoming polls. The Balakot air strike seems to have struck the right chord for BJP among the electorate in the 2019 elections in Sambalpur LS. It needs to be reminded here that even in 2014, BJP was the most favoured choice of voters for the Centre.

For instance, when BJP candidate Suresh Pujari in 2014 parliamentary elections had around 15,000 lead over BJD’s Nagendra Pradhan in the Sambalpur assembly segment under the LS seat, BJP got defeated by around 10,000 votes in the Sambalpur Assembly Constituency in 2014, which was won by BJD’s Raseswari Panigrahi.

In 2014 LS elections, BJP had polled more votes than BJD in as many as four assembly segments under the LS. But the saffron party could win only two assembly seats in the 2014 polls.BJP had a lead in Sambalpur and Rengali in the LS polls but lost to BJD in the assembly polls. The facts show BJP was the flavor of voters for the Centre in the Sambalpur LS in 2014 polls itself.

However, the goings-on for BJD in Assembly polls 2019 falling under the Sambalpur LS are not that easy as the party had got a severe drubbing in the 2017 rural polls. Except Rairakhol Assembly Constituency, BJD had lost to BJP in other assembly seats like Kuchinda, Deogarh, Sambalpur and Rengali in the 2017 rural polls. The BJP seems to have an advantage over the BJD in the said assembly constituencies even in 2019 polls.

Political observers are of the opinion that Chenndipada was the roadblock on the BJP’s victory in the Sambalpur LS seat in 2014, as the vote difference between BJP and BJD was a whopping around 46,000. BJP seems to have been pinning hopes on eating into the vote bank of Congress to bridge the wide vote gap with BJD.  As the party has increased its vote share in subsequent polls since 2009, the party hopes to garner around 20,000 – 30,000 votes more in 2019, they observed.