Odisha Elections 2019: From cakewalk to contest?

While selection of candidates is going to be one of the deciding factors in Odisha polls, opposition parties expect anti-incumbency wave to provide enough tailwind to usher in a change

Bhubaneswar: Arguably, the political landscape of Odisha has never been so fermented before the general elections because a tougher fight is expected among the three major political parties and the campaign rhetoric is likely to reach deafening levels.

Many believe that for the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha, the 2019 polls will definitely be a shift ‘from a cakewalk to contest’ as the party had been outperforming its opponents with ease since 2000.  Among the several challenges, selection of candidates is going to be a tough task for the BJD. If reports are to be believed, the party is having plethora of ticket-aspirants following exodus of several key leaders from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.

Widespread distress among farmers coupled with anti-incumbency against the government are likely to hurt the BJD despite the fact that the State government recently announced a KALIA scheme for the farmers- the scheme that was severely criticised by the Opposition who raised questions over its effective implementation and constitutional validity.

Odisha Chief Minister and BJD President Naveen Patnaik

 

Moreover, reaching out to people and highlighting the achievements of the BJD government will be a tough task for the party leaders with the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections barely four months away.  “There are challenges, but the party is strong enough and has the ability to face the test. Good governance, people-connect initiatives and the policies will take the party through in the elections,” said senior BJD leader and Minister, Badri Narayan Patra.

After the party’s outstanding performance in the panchayat elections, the BJP leaders are pinning high hopes and they feel that the charisma of Narendra Modi will do wonders in Odisha in 2019 elections and the party will achieve its ‘Mission 120 plus seats’ set by party president Amit Shah.  Lack of people-connect initiatives and strong leaders at the grassroots level are some issues that the saffron party is currently dealing with. Though it has been trying hard to reach out to people through its ‘Jansampark Yatra’, the party is likely to face a tough task ahead in selection of candidates and to project itself as the alternative to BJD.

BJP Dharmendra Pradhan
Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan (He is likely to be the chief ministerial candidate of the BJP in Odisha)

“The BJP will form the government in Odisha and put the State on the track of development. It’s not only a challenge for us but also our aim in the very interest of the people of Odisha. We are all prepared achieve our aim,” said State BJP general secretary, Prithviraj Harichandan.

Many believe that Congress’ win in the Hindi heartland- Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan- will change the fate of the party in 2019 elections. The Odisha unit of the party is presently rejuvenated with the victory and hope to turn things around under the new leadership. While infighting within the party and regaining people’s trust are going to be major hurdles, Congress leaders are hopeful of getting full majority in the polls.

Elections 2019
Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Niranjan Patnaik

“Our biggest challenge will be to make people aware of the current position of Odisha and the problems the State is currently dealing with. What could have been done? What could be done but it is not? We will reach out to people with all these issues,” said Odisha Congress chief, Niranjan Patnaik.

Senior journalist and politics expert, Prasanna Mohanty said, “A voice of change has taken root in Odisha as people here seem to be unhappy with the misgovernance. How far the opposition parties will take advantage of this anti-incumbency is a big question.”